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Suicides

Armymedic

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the 48th regulator said:
Medication does work,

But, like any other method of healing it all depends on the individual, and the treatment that they receive.
So true, so true. Medications treat the symptoms, healing is up to the individual.

The stats on suicide, the CF and Canadian young men need to be read correctly. The CF average of suicide given age /gender considerations are not greater than the same rate for the age/gender group for the remainder of Canadian populations.

There is also stats of Canadian soldiers reporting higher than average rates of mental illness....how many other groups of Cdn males between 20-35 routinely have psych and mental health screenings?
 

Eye In The Sky

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As a Baseline/benchmark, I would like to have seen CBC also report on the % of suicides in the same age brackets of our nations police officers, firefighters, EMTs/paramedics and the rest of society that are in jobs that can lead to PTSD and other mental injuries.  I can't comment on the accuracy or validity of the CBC numbers that are in this thread.  However, if there was a rise in the number, for my little brain, the fact that we have an army that is at war, and Navy that is sailing in the Gulf and an AF that is manning the camp that doesn't exist, etc etc...how could it not be the case?  More marriages/personal relationships are strained or ending, families apart more and more...I guess to me, I would wonder what the surprise would be.
 

40below

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So true, so true. Medications treat the symptoms, healing is up to the individual.

The stats on suicide, the CF and Canadian young men need to be read correctly. The CF average of suicide given age /gender considerations are not greater than the same rate for the age/gender group for the remainder of Canadian populations.

There is also stats of Canadian soldiers reporting higher than average rates of mental illness....how many other groups of Cdn males between 20-35 routinely have psych and mental health screenings?

The other factor here, IMO and which has everything to do with how the data is compiled, has directly to do with lumping in Inuit and Inuvialuit Rangers into the general pop being measured. I don't claim to be a statistician or a sociologist, but I lived in the high Arctic for several years, went on a few sovereignty patrols and knew a few Rangers who killed themselves in the time I was up there, a lot more since. The suicide rate among northern Aboriginals, although it does vary by region and by community, is roughly seven times the national average even as measured by StatsCan and Health Canada, and that tends to hold true from the Yupik of Alaska to the Inuit of Nunavut and Nunatsiavut, and even into Greenland  – plus young men there have easy access to firearms which means the attempt-to-success ratio among young men, bluntly put, tends to be higher than in the south because of the methods employed. All of the young men I knew who killed themselves shot themselves, and adding to the rate is that they don't exactly have trauma hospitals in places like Tsiigehtchic or Pond Inlet - they have a nursing station and the nearest air ambulance can be several days away.

Rangers may or may not be more predisposed to suicide than other Inuit, but let's extrapolate the trend and say they are seven times more likely to commit suicide – those 4,000 Rangers actually figure as a population of 28,000 if the ratio holds - in other words, they make up a third of the Forces being measured but have a suicide rate seven times as high. I can see that skewing the numbers.
 

Blackadder1916

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40below said:
The other factor here, IMO and which has everything to do with how the data is compiled, has directly to do with lumping in Inuit and Inuvialuit Rangers into the general pop being measured. . . .

The statistics maintained on CF members deal mainly with those on full-time service.  While the system may know that a reservist is 'discharged dead', the circumstances of that death will probably not be recorded unless the reservist (in any component of the reserve) died while on 'B' or 'C' class service (either on or off duty).  If the death occurred while on 'A' class service, the circumstances would have been recorded only if the death had occurred while actually on duty.  From my recollection, the majority of Canadian Rangers serve mainly on 'A' class service or short bouts of 'B' class during training or when supporting an operation in the north.  So unless all (or a majority of) Inuit Ranger suicides had actually occurred on duty,  including them in any statistical analysis will not skew the result as you suggest.

 

2 Cdo

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dapaterson said:
Perhaps we should back off on some of the CBC bashing. 

When the CBC stops trying to GENERATE news and sticks to REPORTING the news I will cease bashing them. Until such time I will have nothing but disdain for their unprofessionalism and "leftie" bias.
 

Greymatters

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dapaterson said:
Claiming "The military has many young men who are more prone to suicide" is a red herring.  First, the military is not a cross section of society writ large; there is selection prior to enrollment that should weed out psyches more likely to suicide; this could be an indicator that those selection processes are not working as they should, or an indicator that additional stresses are being placed on our sailors, soldiers and airmen.

I would agree that the comment is a red herring, but would disagree with your follow-on statements. 

The military is a cross-section of society, but certainly not of societal culture, as IMO we are (in general) more conservative in our thinking than the general population.  And despite all the recruiting efforts, we dont have a force that represents every culture across Canada to the point some people would like to believe we should.     

The selection process can weed out persons likely to commit suicide at the time of selection, but many other factors are introduced once service begins and continues, so new factors can contribute during the course of a career.  Many pressures that contribute to a 'suicidal psyche' as you call it can be encountered later in life/career that cannot possibly be detected during initial selection, but only by continued monitoring during the course of a career.

On the last part, IMO it is pretty much a given that all CF members face stressors far beyond what most people encounter, but whether our system is adequate for detecting and preventing the creation of a potential suicide remains debatable.  You'd have to get a current SME to verify or comment on that...
 

dapaterson

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Greymatters:

I think we agree in our disagreement.  The CF is different (I'm tepmted to call it "a distinct society") and faces different stressors - and we need to focus on what those stressors are, and who we select, and how we train those we select to deal with those stressors.

 

The Bread Guy

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This from the National Post:
Canadians should be wary of a grim trend in the United States where all military suicides outnumber combat deaths in Iraq and Afghanistan, a top mental health expert said Thursday.

Zul Merali told a forum on Parliament Hill that military suicides in Canada should be tracked and made public so that Canadians know the scope of a hidden problem, in part, because of stigma associated with mental illness.

"As a society we need to come to terms with this issue square on," said Merali, president and CEO of the Ottawa Institute of Mental Health Research.

Merali was among speakers at a forum arranged by Liberal MPs to air problems facing some injured veterans of Afghanistan and other modern conflicts ....
 

BlueJingo

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For some reason I thought the CF already publishes post-combat suicides... I'll have to search for this when I get into work tomorrow.
 

old medic

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Military's overall suicide rate no different than general population's: study
OTTAWA— The Canadian Press
31 May 2011
http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/national/militarys-overall-suicide-rate-no-different-than-general-populations-study/article2041173/

A new study says the military's overall suicide rate is no higher than that of the general population, though some soldiers and ex-soldiers are more than twice as likely to take their own lives.

The Statistics Canada study of 188,161 military personnel who enrolled between 1972 and 2006 says that women between the ages of 40 and 44 were more than twice as likely to die from suicide as their same—age counterparts in the general population.

The study says that among those released from the military during the study period, males aged 16 to 24 were more than twice as likely to kill themselves as those in the general male population.

But it found that among all those who joined the military during the study period, the risk of suicide was not significantly different from that of the general population.

The report comes just days after what appears to have been the fourth suicide by a Canadian soldier in Afghanistan.

The study period, however, predates the bulk of Canada's major combat operations in the country's Kandahar region and it does not include deaths that occurred outside Canada.

 

dapaterson

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The study is limited in that it examined only Regular Force members.

It's available online at:

http://www.statcan.gc.ca/bsolc/olc-cel/olc-cel?catno=82-584-X&lang=eng
 

Pieman

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During a three year period I count two suicides that happened in the shacks I was living in, one suicide on exercise, and one suicide on tour.  Those are the ones I was aware of.

I get the feeling that things are no where near the general population's rate.



 

dapaterson

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Per the study:

• For both males and females in the entire CF CAMS cohort, when all ages were considered, the risk of dying from suicide was not significantly different from that of the general population.
...
• Age-specific analyses indicated that CF CAMS females aged 40 to 44 were more than twice as likely to die from suicide as their same-age counterparts in the general population. These differences were statistically significant.

Note that the study examined much more than just suicide; it examined overall mortality.

EDIT to add:

Female suicide rates by age were only provided for the 40-44 age group; for thoer groups, the sample space was small enough that there was a risk of identifying individuals.

And for retired members:

• In the male released CF CAMS population, the risk of suicide was about one and a half times higher than in the general male population. This difference was statistically significant.

So: men who are serving - same suicide risk.  Retired men: higher suicide risk.
 

dapaterson

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And still more:

Among the released cohort (military personnel that enrolled and released between 1972 and 2006), there was a higher risk of suicide in males aged 16 to 44, and in women aged 40 to 44, when compared to the general population. These findings prompted the need for a closer examination of factors potentially related to suicide among the released CF CAMS cohort.

Findings from the proportional hazards model showed that the risk of suicide in the released group of military personnel was highest among male non-commissioned members with short periods of service who were released for non-voluntary reasons. Furthermore, the risk of suicide was higher for personnel with military service during the 1972 to 1986 time period.
 

mariomike

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Pieman said:
I get the feeling that things are no where near the general population's rate.

I am not sure how accurate the "gen pop" suicide versus accident stats are.
It is not always obvious on scene if the cause of death was suicide, or accidental. Even when suicide is suspected, but not obvious, for the sake of the family, ( often in the home, looking you in the eye ) the word "suicide" is seldom spoken. For example, there is still debate if the overdose death of Marilyn Monroe in 1962 was suicide or accidental. Same with some gun deaths.

Here is a story about "gen pop" suicide versus accidental stats from an insurance angle:
http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2011-03-01/accidental-death-becomes-suicide-when-insurers-dodge-paying-life-benefits.html
 

Pieman

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I am not sure how accurate the "gen pop" suicide versus accident stats are.
Yes, one always have to take any statistical report with a grain of salt.

Good link, and an awful story. Have to wonder what kind of person is working in the insurance company and is comfortable making a decision like that.
 
A

aesop081

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Pieman said:
Yes, one always have to take any statistical report with a grain of salt.

That is why i take your comment about 2 suicides in 3 years comment with a grain of salt. In almost 19 years of service i have only known one who commited suicide and one who had a failed attempt.

I'm sure reality lies somewhere in between.
 

Cansky

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but every base has a different population and  experience. I personally know of 2 suicides in my 24 years in the CF (meaning knowing the individual)s as well as during my 4 year stay at Base Borden, in 2010 Jan to Mar 3 separate suicides (3 different schools, and rank levels).  So Pieman may very well have know of 2 suicides in 3 years and you CDN Aviator may have had only known one suicide.  Doen't mean either is wrong in their stats just different exposures.
 

kstart

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I'm general population and I've lost two very close people to suicide.  First was my father, and it was obvious by method.  Prior attempts were less obvious, a few wrecked cars, DUI; and other times threatening with a weapon, means.  Stressors were illness (later stages of alcoholism); losses (in unmanageable financial debt; legal stressors; loss of ability to function in his occupation [due to DTs, and needing a steady hand).  Unwilling to seek professional help, steadfast refusal to get help (addiction pollution of the mind).  This was back at a time, not much community support, or awareness ('79). 

Other one, stressors: terminal illness; full loss of ability to function in work due to illness; unmanageable financial debt, and relapse back into a serious addiction.  It was an OD, after not using for a longer period of time; "do not ressussitate order" on his file.  Statistically, it's recorded as 'accidental', but likely it was suicide, and/or wrecklessness under the influence.  He also had his first meeting with a social worker, I thought things were going to be okay, but maybe he wasn't up for it.  Was it a last hurrah, before getting serious about extended addiction treatment or tired from the strains of illness.  He said things were okay after leaving my door, but 2 more days of the bender, he didn't survive.

I spent most of my life being hypervigilant re: risks of suicide, while with respect to not crowd others 24/7 (I've had to be watchful over my younger brother).  I actually worked in a field among a high risk population (homeless youth), trained in Suicide Intervention and about 20-40 or so sucessful interventions, so others could survive through the crisis to another day, this over the course of 10 years.  It was street patrol, meeting others where they were at, I'm haunted by some of those exposures, but I have a grip on my PTSD, and managing and at least understanding flashback when it's occuring (much better with it).

Statistically, my family members and myself are higher risk for suicide because of having it in the family, constitutes as a "prior attempt", increasing risk factor.  Plus the PTSD and latent ptsd that developed through my family (and myself).  Mom had it within months after my father's completed suicide, regularly suicidal, adrenalized, explosive, violent rage, etc.  My younger brother and I survived amidst the continuing on-going crisis for years, but it was a time bomb and hit us in our adulthood.  Children handling what ought to have been handled by mental health professionals, yet there was also a refusal to get help by my mom (despite Child Protection order-- she showed up once and quit, and it was never followed up on).  This fried my physiology/brain, over-use of stress response, rapid unpredictability, continual life-threatening crisis.

I think when a suicide happens on base, it would be good to remain vigilant re: risks to others, important to build on health/resilience, self-care, maintaining some regular routine where possible and awreness of use of support services.

PTSD is a frustrating disability and for me, it resulted in loss of ability to function, not only for the employment I was in, but cognitive impairment, problems of concentration, not able to even read a paragraph, brain was bouncing everywhere.  I'm recovering, live for the better days and I'm having more of those.  I raised the bar for myself on what is "last resort" for me, and that is to call a crisis line, when it's really bad.  And Ativan, if that doesn't do it.  I'm financially poor, but I'm not in debt and I can live within my means.  I don't have young children to look after, but I'm watchful for my younger brother, who moved in with me, after facing financial crisis.  I'm fortunate we get along well, have a suvivor pact, and he is someone I have fought for all my life, to "not leave behind".

Bombardier Manning's death has triggered some grief for me as I imagine the turmoil his family can be facing :(, but I am also comforted with knowledge that CF and mental health services have come a long way and that there's communities of support for them.  I had of those 'labrynth dreams" last night, chasing after one of my lost ones, expression from my unconsciousness,  the wish I could have save him, protected him, but different from the intensity of some of my ptsd nightmares, it didn't immoblize me today (not lost in time and space").  I have less panic about some of the older traumas, so I can understand with less overhwelment.  I have very strong inner resources which has been important for my survival, because in my situation, I'm one of those who have fallen between the cracks of a social support system, two-tiered medical health care system re: ptsd treatment.  It's been a slow slog, but easier for me when I left the ambivalence of suicidal impulses behind me (which do happpen when overwhelmed by flashback hell), to firmly committ to life, whatever it takes.  I did access short-term help from a social worker, who could teach me flashback management, and just that bit of presense to what I was presenting which helped me better be able to recognize flashback when it is happening, dissociation.  I understand it more from a physiological perspective, which I like, because symptoms can present in the body, before flashback and I've leart I don't need to feed into 'story line" which makes the suffering worse for me.  Just a tip, not sure if they're using it in CF, but Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction is an awesome tool and practice to get to learn.

A few things of comfort I remind myself of: "Can't change the winds, but I can adjust the sails" (attitude to remember); "If you're going through hell, keep going" (Winston Churchill); "the best way out is always through" (Robert Frost?).

The luxury I do have today is that I'm safe, I'm not in a danger zone.  A lot more is possible, having that.  I expect full recovery, a manageable recovery, a change in occupation, yes.  It was hard to let go, because my self identityy was very locked into my profession, too much of a service habit, it was completely new learning to learn self-care, the part of me that's not career.  Changes are opportunities for new beginnings, if we're able get through the letting go process and open up to newer possibilities, dip the feet in newer directions.

I'm sensitive to the recent  loss of Bombarier Manning and I thought I'd share a perspective from civillian life as I think there can be crossovers re: risk factors for sucidide/accidental death, civillian and non-civillian.  We invest a lot into career, personally and financially, but it doesn't have to be the end-all, be-all, when changes are necessary (just have to focus on survival of it, till in a better space to re-build) , it's just hard to let go of service when theres a lot of personal investment in it.  External pressures exist in both military and civillian spheres.  As a civillian ptsd-sufferer, we can also face external attitudes of 'suck it up", 'get over it", and a whole barrage of sterotypes, pop psych, or accused of being 'whinny", but as I've experienced PTSD for some years, I'm more convinced of it's physiological manifestation, flashbacks proceed formalized thought (it's fragments from experience, recall that is stuck in the hippocampus region of the brain, not processed by the neo-cortex/frontal lobe) not yet thought, just a trigger, but they can grip and not let go and wrose and more stress fighting it, getting angry at it, ashamed of it.  They carry emotional content, grief, stuff that was stuffed back through the survival mode through a situation, context, dissociated memory.  It's a brain injury, though less visibly obvious vs.  ABI/TBI physical impact.

There are times, I probably should have gone to the hospital, but as a person who is service-oriented and with some caregiving responsibilities (ill brother-- I'm 'big sister" ;) ), put  it ,not convenient to get help, the condition and the fatigue worsened.  Dutiful, had to stay strong for others, sense of responsibility, etc.  I'm not comofrtable with my community knowing I need to go to the hospital.  I suffer intense shame if my ptsd leaks in front of others, self-directed anger.  I carried a strong pride in being reliable, holding it together for others.  I contain by writing, but not showing it in presense of others, unless if I got to a support group, hard to find re: civillian resources, no private insurance.  There is a skilled crisis line, that can handle ptsd.  I don't feel like a burden because I know they get crisis de-briefing.,so it's guilt-free for me and safe-- not going to get pop psych, or 'suck it up", 'get over it" which is misunderstanding, it's the symptoms that are more problematic, I can't move, get things done, brain is stuck.  If I described contents of flashback, it's disturbing stuff, others discomfort , natural defense mechanism of others is denial (from fear, caught up in their own 'storylines", and 'myths" about things).  It also allows containment from a work environment or environment for which I carry duties and responsibilities.

There are newer technologies (MEG) for detecting PTSD damage on the brain, I don't know if the military would consider using it  (i.e., on a voluntary basis) to help in assessing risk  For depression, it can be possible to re-focus, distract; for PTSD symptoms, there's some other issues, though ptsd and depression, anxiety also tend to co-exist, so there are different "first aid" coping strategies for each state and stage, and individually discovering what works best, and  re-adjusting them as needed.  PTSD intrusions have caused me to experience sucidal thoughts, a way to block it, numb it, try to get 'it' to stop, make it go away.  Ill like this on a regular basis, I would not be able to function in a frontlines  CF capacity, higher responsibility, where freezing/stuck is not affordable.

Mental illness is a hard loss, related losses re: career, financial, personal pride/shame, etc. which can be really hard for civillians and non-civillians, alike, but maybe less privacy in the military context because working and living with others context, e.g. if happens in the context of the barracks?  I hide it from those I live with, by finding a quite space, write, use crisis line and others respecting my need for privacy, alone time.

Anyway, this is just meant to share a perspective from an anonymous person who experiences it, witnessed it, and it's affects among family members.  It's not meant to be 'about me", but some aspects of risk factors, stressors, interplay of suicidal person (hidden conditions) and environment with emphasis on ptsd symtomology.  PTSD, depression, anxiety disorders, addictions are also risk factors among military service people: exposure to loses; fried physiology/combat fatigue, risks of burnout; being in positions of high responsiblity for protection of life and defending oneself, an interrdependent team.  I imagine it would be very hard, things can change rapidly in a matter of split seconds, it's human to lose a second or two, an error in a split second judgement, or someone else's error, and accountability an change in the wind, no chance to the sail, but it can also be fatal and that's high stress to carry :/ especially when unreasonable with oneself, unforgiving.  We ask a lot of human beings, those called to service for our country.  My deepest respect to all.
 
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