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Atlas Institute for Veterans and Families collaborates with Veterans and Family members in developing suicide prevention resources

OTTAWA, ON — March 13, 2024 — With the risk of suicide for Veterans 1.4 to 1.9 times higher than in the general population, and women Veterans almost two times more likely to die by suicide than women in the general population, Veterans and Families have long identified suicide prevention as a priority and emphasized the need for additional supports for mental health and well-being.

In recognition of this, along with the fact that early interventions and faster access to support can prevent the worsening of mental health conditions and contribute to improved overall well-being, the Atlas Institute for Veterans and Families has developed a suite of suicide prevention resources in collaboration with Veterans and Family members, and in partnership with the Centre for Suicide Prevention.

Fardous Hosseiny, President and CEO of the Atlas Institute, said, “Statistics confirm that the Veteran population is at a higher risk for mental health concerns than Canadian general population with reported rates among Veterans of 26% for depression, 24% for posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and 21% for anxiety. These facts support upstream strategies focused on increasing protective factors,” he said, adding that tackling this issue must include equipping Veterans and Families equally with practical strategies and tools to understand and support their mental health.

The resources released on March 14 were co-created with an advisory committee made up of members of people with lived and living experience from the Veteran and Family community, including members of the Atlas Institute Lived Experience team. Laryssa Lamrock, National Strategic Advisor for Veteran Families at the Atlas Institute, who was involved in the resource development, explained that while Canadian Armed Forces and Royal Canadian Mounted Police Veterans are at higher risk of mental health concerns as a result of their service, their loved ones can also be significantly impacted when the Veteran is struggling with suicidal thoughts and behaviours. She noted that it is critical to acknowledge that Veteran Family members’ mental health is important to consider in its own right and that they may have their own challenges to be addressed.

“Our goal was to develop the new tools to support both Veterans and their Family members, so they can find answers based on the experiences of people like them for the questions they may have about mental health and suicide,  be that immediate access to resources such as direct supports, tips and strategies for loved ones or for themselves outside of the needs of their loved ones. There is a continuum of experiences for both the Veteran and the Family member and these resources aim to acknowledge and support people’s needs at different points along that continuum.” Lamrock pointed to a recent Atlas-funded study that found there seem to be very few, if any, resources dedicated specifically to Family members in their own right, despite the fact they have their own mental health experiences and needs and may themselves be at risk for suicide.

Brian McKenna, a Veteran and National Strategic Advisor for Veterans at the Atlas Institute, agreed it is important for both Veterans and Family members to have suicide prevention resources that speak to their perspectives and unique needs. “These resources have been created for and by members of the Veteran community and include toolkits for both Veterans and Family members that incorporate their specific experiences. The Veteran toolkit looks at understanding suicide in Veterans, actions to take if someone sees warning signs in themselves or loved ones, and strategies to build resilience and help reduce risk among others. The toolkits include information and tips on self-care for Family members in their own right and for managing their own mental health and practical strategies to support their loved one.”  McKenna added these are supported by a conversation guide that works through how to talk to someone who might be experiencing suicidal thoughts and behaviours, along with a help card that provides key pointers and information about direct supports for Veterans in crisis.

Mara Grunau, Executive Director of Centre for Suicide Prevention, said, “Veterans, Veteran Families and communities all have a role to play in building resilience and preventing Veteran suicide. If you’re worried about a Veteran, have an open, non-judgmental conversation. If they’re considering suicide, connect them to help.”

Hosseiny notes that for Veterans and Family members dealing with suicidal thoughts and behaviours in themselves and their loved ones, it can be overwhelming and difficult to know where to turn. “While there is work to be done, these resources are an important part of a much-needed multilayered approach to suicide prevention which can continue to grow. Our hope is to help Veterans and their Families know they are not alone and that this is a tool they can add to their toolkit to support both their own mental health and that of the person they’re caring for.”

Resources are now available to download and print at

For more information, please contact:

Rosemary Thompson
Artful Strategies

Quick facts:

  • The Atlas Institute for Veterans and Families was established to provide easier access to information, research, tools and expertise on PTSD and related mental health conditions.
  • Since its inception, Atlas has contributed to the publication of 39 peer-reviewed articles and created more than 45 knowledge products, including fact sheets, written resources, videos and infographics. Atlas has led or is currently leading 14 research projects and has partnered on another 26 research projects.
  • Atlas actively engages Veterans and their Families as key partners, co-investigators and co-authors of its research, including a process for their participation in reviewing research outcomes from a lived expertise perspective.
  • It also collaborates and partners with Veterans and Families to understand which issues matter most to them, using that knowledge to work with them and with service providers and researchers to co-create resources and knowledge products that fit the unique culture and needs of the Veteran and Family communities.