“In a sense, these are our forgotten casualties.”
By Olivia Levesque , Staff Writer
On the day before Remembrance Day, Globe and Mail released an investigation that had been in the works for months with the Canadian Armed Forces. The investigation known as “The Unremembered” released disturbing statistics of the number of soldiers and veterans who had taken their own lives after serving in Afghanistan. The numbers show that Canada isn’t just losing troops overseas, but losing them here at home too. Since the beginning of the 13-year NATO-led Afghan mission, 54 military personnel and veterans have committed suicide, according to the statistics released by the Globe and Mail. The number suicides since the beginning of our mission in Afghanistan number more than one third of the number of Canadian troops who killed in action during the conflict itself. It’s a sad reality but it seems those returning from deployment face a war on Canadian soil almost as deadly as the one they faced overseas.
National Defence Minister, Harjit Singh Sajjan, has responded to the investigation by issuing an order to Canada’s top military leader to make suicide prevention a major priority within the Armed Forces. The investigation has also shown that the number of suicides have increased over the past year amongst returning veterans as well. Fourteen suicides were recorded since the beginning of 2014 according to the investigation.
Another startling statistic reported in the investigation is that out of the 158 soldiers who died during Canada’s Afghan mission, six took their own lives. Minister Saijan in a statement following the release, said, “Throughout my career, I have seen first-hand the demands of military service, and the sometimes enormous impact it can have on members and their families. This is particularly relevant given our long combat mission in Afghanistan”. Minister Saijan is also an Afghanistan veteran with three tours of duty.
The military, who is responsible for ensuring health care is delivered to soldiers, already has a suicide presentation plan in place, but with the recent statistics it is evident that steps need to be taken to provide sufficient help to veterans suffering with mental health issues, physical issues, PTSD, or any deployment related struggles. All are contributing factors to the suicide rates for returning soldiers.
“The military will spend a fortune to train a soldier to go to war. They need to spend that same amount of money to repair that soldier when they come back.” says military veteran Darrell McMullin to the Globe and Mail in an interview after the investigation was released.
Although the information released by the Canadian armed forces and the investigation by The Globe and Mail has upset many, Canadians remain hopeful that with newly appointed National Defence ministers back ground and understanding, the next necessary step to prevention will be taken.
No plan has been released regarding a plan of action in suicide prevention for soldiers , but Minister Saijan has expressed in many press releases that he is committed to this issue, making it a priority, and is determined to “identify a way forward”.