Suicides in the Canadian military rose last year as thousands of soldiers returned home from Afghanistan, according to the Department of National Defence.

The department said 19 men and one woman died by suicide in the Canadian Forces in 2011, up from 12 in 2010.

It cautions against reading too much into the statistics, though, adding there is no proof they signal an upward trend.

In a statement on its website, the department said suicide rates among serving military personnel are lower than those of the Canadian population.

The Canadian Forces have increased mental health screening and awareness programs since 2009 and returning soldiers must attend post-deployment sessions with mental health staff.

Chief of Defence Staff Walter Natyncyzk told a Senate committee Monday even with the gold standard of recruitment and all of the screening techniques available, it is impossible to identify every vulnerable soldier.