More than 3,000 Sentinels provide support to those in distress

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When it comes to help for those in distress, every action counts and can make a difference. Yet despite all the support programs and tools put in place, the problem is often taking that first step toward the appropriate resources.

Military members in distress may find it difficult to ask for help for any number of reasons, including personal pride, feelings of isolation, or social pressure. This is where the camaraderie that unites Canadian Armed Forces members comes into play.

Established by the Royal Canadian Chaplain Service, the Canadian Armed Forces SENTINEL Program is a peer support network made up of trained and supervised volunteer members of all ranks. Civilians may also volunteer with the approval of their local chain of command and local SENTINEL Chaplain. Through their informed presence within their units, the Sentinels play an important role in the prevention, detection, and support for colleagues in distress.

The active presence of the Sentinels is felt in a number of areas, such as Operation HONOUR. When grappling with a situation as sensitive as sexual misconduct, feeling supported and not alone is critically important. The support and guidance provided by the Sentinels have the potential to bring about positive outcomes.

The program started in 2007 and grew to 2,000 members in 2016. Today, with more than 3,000 qualified Sentinels in action on the ground there are more Canadian Armed Forces members ready to offer their support to those who need it.

Observe, confirm, take action, and seek back-up

The program is driven by the premise that peers are best situated to identify colleagues in distress and help them find appropriate support. Sentinels keep an eye out for signs of distress in their colleagues, particularly with respect to mental health. They offer human contact and encourage dialogue and networking to reduce potentially harmful isolation.

Two essential elements of the program are simplicity and humanity. It is not a question of training people in areas in which trained professionals are already working, such as mental health. Rather, Sentinels act as guides to resources, support programs, and tools available to Canadian Armed Forces members and their families to facilitate identification and access.

The SENTINEL Program is constantly evolving to meet command requirements. Once qualified, members need to take ongoing training each year, to maintain their knowledge and discover resources newly available.

To learn more about the Canadian Armed Forces’ SENTINEL Program or to volunteer, please contact a chaplain in your unit.

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