Skip to main content
The Globe and Mail
Support Quality Journalism.
The Globe and Mail
First Access to Latest
Investment News
Collection of curated
e-books and guides
Inform your decisions via
Globe Investor Tools
per week
for first 24 weeks

Enjoy unlimited digital access
Enjoy Unlimited Digital Access
Get full access to
Just $1.99per week for the first 24weeks
Just $1.99per week for the first 24weeks
var select={root:".js-sub-pencil",control:".js-sub-pencil-control",open:"o-sub-pencil--open",closed:"o-sub-pencil--closed"},dom={},allowExpand=!0;function pencilInit(o){var e=arguments.length>1&&void 0!==arguments[1]&&arguments[1];select.root=o,dom.root=document.querySelector(select.root),dom.root&&(dom.control=document.querySelector(select.control),dom.control.addEventListener("click",onToggleClicked),setPanelState(e),window.addEventListener("scroll",onWindowScroll),dom.root.removeAttribute("hidden"))}function isPanelOpen(){return dom.root.classList.contains(}function setPanelState(o){dom.root.classList[o?"add":"remove"](,dom.root.classList[o?"remove":"add"](select.closed),dom.control.setAttribute("aria-expanded",o)}function onToggleClicked(){var l=!isPanelOpen();setPanelState(l)}function onWindowScroll(){window.requestAnimationFrame(function() {var l=isPanelOpen(),n=0===(document.body.scrollTop||document.documentElement.scrollTop);n||l||!allowExpand?n&&l&&(allowExpand=!0,setPanelState(!1)):(allowExpand=!1,setPanelState(!0))});}pencilInit(".js-sub-pencil",!1); // via darwin-bg var slideIndex = 0; carousel(); function carousel() { var i; var x = document.getElementsByClassName("subs_valueprop"); for (i = 0; i < x.length; i++) { x[i].style.display = "none"; } slideIndex++; if (slideIndex> x.length) { slideIndex = 1; } x[slideIndex - 1].style.display = "block"; setTimeout(carousel, 2500); } //

A Canadian soldier searches a compound in the Panjwai district of Kandahar province, Afghanistan, in June, 2011.

David Goldman/The Associated Press

A Canadian Forces report on lessons learned from reviewing military suicides in 2014 highlights relationship status, financial troubles and method of death, but is puzzlingly silent on the impact of the Afghanistan war.

The omission stands in stark contrast to the military's acknowledgment Tuesday that deployment may be emerging as a risk factor for suicide, particularly trauma and mental illness connected to the 13-year Afghanistan mission. The Forces had previously said it had not found a consistent link between serving overseas and increased suicide risk.

A Globe and Mail investigation, along with recently released military data, reveals that at least 59 soldiers and veterans have killed themselves after serving in the Afghanistan operation – more than one-third the number of Canadian troops who perished in the war itself.

Story continues below advertisement

(Read the story behind the Globe's unprecedented, far-reaching investigation into soldier suicides)

Of the 19 suicides of active-duty members last year, it appears as many as 11 had deployed to Afghanistan, according to a military update provided to The Globe last week. The newspaper identified an additional three Afghanistan war vets who took their lives in 2014 after leaving the army. There could be more. The federal government does not regularly track veterans' suicides and has incomplete data on reservists.

The Forces could not immediately explain the deployment omission in its lessons-learned report or confirm how many of last year's military suicides had served in Afghanistan. (Remembrance Day is a federal statutory holiday.)

The report was part of a Surgeon-General suicide update released Tuesday after newly appointed Defence Minister Harjit Singh Sajjan ordered Canada's top military leader to make suicide prevention a priority and examine why an increased number of soldiers have taken their lives in recent years. The Surgeon-General is the military's top health official.

General Jonathan Vance, Chief of the Defence Staff, committed to doing the wider examination, but the scope of his review is not yet clear.

The report on suicides in 2014 is based on internal military medical reviews conducted after members take their lives. The reviews, which have been done since 2010, are separate from boards of inquiries and are designed to help the Forces identify trends as well as gaps in its care and its suicide-prevention program. The findings of individual reviews are kept from families and were not accessible to The Globe through the Access to Information Act.

The report on military suicides in 2014 offers details on 15 of the 19 death reviews. Nine of the members were married, although four were not living with their spouse due to relationship issues.

Story continues below advertisement

Nearly half of the 15 were facing career reviews or legal or disciplinary proceedings at the time of their suicides. Two-thirds had sought medical or mental-health care in the 30 days before their deaths. The report notes that more than half were struggling with depression, and three had been diagnosed with a traumatic brain injury. Two members had post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

Yet the soldiers' deployment history, including service in Afghanistan, is not mentioned in the report.

The medical reviews led to 29 recommendations, including proposals to improve medical documentation and boost support for medical staff and military colleagues after a member's suicide or suicide attempt. The reviews, however, found "no evidence presented to indicate that any of the suicides were readily preventable."

One of the soldiers who died by suicide in 2014 was Corporal Scott Smith. Married and a father of two young boys, Cpl. Smith took his life two years after returning from Afghanistan. His family believes he was suffering with PTSD, but he was afraid that seeking treatment would torpedo his military career.

His mother, Connie Smith, wants Gen. Vance's suicide-prevention review to lead to several changes, including making counselling mandatory and ongoing for military members who were in combat. She said a PTSD diagnosis should not affect their careers, nor be disclosed to other members. She also wants the military to do regular check-ins with spouses and children of soldiers who die by suicide to make sure families have the help they need.

"On a grand scale, the military culture must have a total mind shift," Ms. Smith said in an e-mail. Addressing the impact of combat on mental health should be a greater priority, she added.

Story continues below advertisement

"This is not new," she noted. "Military families have suffered the effects of war since time began."

Are you a member of a military family with a similar story? E-mail Renata D'Aliesio at as she continues to bring attention to this important issue.

Your Globe

Build your personal news feed

  1. Follow topics and authors relevant to your reading interests.
  2. Check your Following feed daily, and never miss an article. Access your Following feed from your account menu at the top right corner of every page.

Follow the author of this article:

Follow topics related to this article:

View more suggestions in Following Read more about following topics and authors
Report an error Editorial code of conduct
Due to technical reasons, we have temporarily removed commenting from our articles. We hope to have this fixed soon. Thank you for your patience. If you are looking to give feedback on our new site, please send it along to If you want to write a letter to the editor, please forward to

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff.

We aim to create a safe and valuable space for discussion and debate. That means:

  • Treat others as you wish to be treated
  • Criticize ideas, not people
  • Stay on topic
  • Avoid the use of toxic and offensive language
  • Flag bad behaviour

If you do not see your comment posted immediately, it is being reviewed by the moderation team and may appear shortly, generally within an hour.

We aim to have all comments reviewed in a timely manner.

Comments that violate our community guidelines will not be posted.

UPDATED: Read our community guidelines here

Discussion loading ...

To view this site properly, enable cookies in your browser. Read our privacy policy to learn more.
How to enable cookies