Sobering Stats: Veterans at consistently higher risk for suicide than general population

Newly released federal study raises more questions than answers

Vancouver, British Columbia, CANADA


TORONTO, Dec. 13, 2017 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- A federal study released last Thursday revealed that Canadian veterans are at significantly higher risk for death by suicide than the general population—and have been for the past 37 years.

Female veterans are 1.8 times more likely to commit suicide than their civilian counterparts, whereas male veterans are 1.4 times more likely to commit suicide— with males under the age of 25 at a 242 per cent higher risk of death by suicide compared to the general population. Over the years of the study from 1976 to 2012, the minister’s office discovered that 1,356 veterans had committed suicide—1,421 male, and 65 female.

These numbers may seem startling, but the sad truth is that they come as no surprise to veterans, who have had to live with such realities—losing comrades who were unable to access government resources—for nearly 40 years.

In fact, the study has even drawn criticism because because it ends in 2012, just as the veterans suicide crisis emerged. Over a period of just three months, a shocking eight veteran suicides were reported, beginning with three suicides over three days in November in 2013. According to some veterans, the study provides an incomplete picture of the true severity of the issue.

"This is just very vague and topical," Aaron Bedard, a former combat engineer who served in Afghanistan, told CBC News. "It is just generalizing it."

Up until now, the government has been reluctant to track suicide among former Canadian Forces members, despite long-held suspicions that veterans are more at risk for depression and PTSD. This is the government’s first attempt at collecting data on veteran suicide rates, a complicated task of cross-referencing data from Veterans Affairs, National Defence and Statistics Canada. The data is intended to inform the government’s recent suicide prevention strategy announced in October.

Meanwhile, this is the Veterans Transition Network’s twentieth year in operation, offering specialized mental health services for 20 years to aid veterans in the critical time as they transition from military to civilian life.

The research shows it’s working—the University of British Columbia has shown that the VTN's programs have a nearly 80 per cent reduction in suicidal thoughts, with nearly all veterans who entered the program actively suicidal continuing to no longer feel suicidal a full 18 months after participating in the program. In addition, 24% reported an increase in life satisfaction and 34% reported an increase in self-esteem.

"The study is a good start at establishing care for our Veterans, but our priority is to reach those who are suffering right now," says Dace Mars, Development Director of the Veterans Transition Network. "Our programs reach Veterans who've been otherwise completely isolated since leaving the military, and we've been told countless times that it's saved their lives at their darkest hours."

Read more about how the VTN has changed veterans’ lives here, and for further information on the research data of the Veterans Transition Program, contact Dr. Dan Cox at dan.cox@ubc.ca.

Media Contact
Nesh Pillay
647-745-4224
nesh@presspillay.com

About the Veterans Transition Network: The Veterans Transition Network is the only Canadian charity delivering mental health services to veterans from coast to coast. Founded in 1997 by Dr. Marv Westwood, their mission is to make sure no Canadian veteran is left suffering in isolation. Our programs are backed by 20 years of research and have a 98% successful transition rate, one of the highest in the world. For more information, see vtncanada.org.

About Press Pillay: Press Pillay is a socially-conscious, boutique communications agency based in Toronto. With a team of former journalists, PR professionals and social media gurus, Press Pillay offers their lifestyle tech clients the highest-possible level of digital marketing strategies, branding and content. For more information visit www.presspillay.com.