OTTAWA -- The military's surgeon general says there have been eight suspected suicides in the Canadian Forces since the beginning of the year, but it's unclear whether they represent a sustained pattern.

Brig.-Gen. Jean-Robert Bernier testified before the all-party House of Commons defence committee on Tuesday and noted that depression, especially among serving male members, is double that of the civilian population and represents a "huge concern."

Medical professionals draw a direct link between instances of depression and suicide.

Bernier noted that numbers are not final because they have yet to be confirmed by a coroner's report.

Starting last fall, the military saw a sudden spike in the number of soldiers taking their own lives.

But even with the high-profile crisis, Bernier says the total number of apparent suicides among both regular and reserves in 2013 amounted to 13 cases -- a figure that is below the average of previous years.