Worrying trend: defense forces saw 1,110 suicides in 2010-19

NEW DELHI: More than 1,110 soldiers, airmen and sailors took the extreme step of ending their lives in the last decade, underlining once again the urgent need for much better suicide prevention interventions in the strong Indian armed forces of more than 14 lakh

The defense ministry says that over the years several measures have been taken to reduce stress among the military, ranging from counseling, yoga and grievance repair mechanisms to improvements in food, clothing, married accommodation and a liberalized license policy.

But clearly, much remains to be done. The latest figures show that there were more than 895 suicides in the Army of more than 12 lakh in the 2010-2019 time period, followed by 185 and 32 in the much smaller IAF and respectively.

Mental stress among military personnel, especially those in active duty, is a global problem. U.S. military forces UU., For example, are dealing with a record suicide rate, with 541 cases in 2018. The suicide rate among active duty troops was 24.8 per 100,000 employees, compared to 21.9 in 2017.

While the suicide rate in the Indian army is equivalent to almost half of the rate of 16.5 suicides in India per 100,000 people, however, it is worrying in the highly disciplined surroundings of the force because suicides can be largely prevented through effective intervention policies.

Soldiers do not have to deal with extreme poverty, unemployment, agricultural distress or other factors that make India's civil suicide rate the highest in Southeast Asia, according to the World Health Organization. But prolonged deployment along the volatile border with Pakistan as well as counterinsurgency operations in and Kashmir and the Northeast make a dent in the mental health and physical resistance of the soldiers.

Soldiers sent in field areas also suffer tremendous stress because they cannot solve the problems faced by their families in their homes, which can range from property disputes and harassment of antisocial elements to financial and marital problems. “Previously, periodically news came from home. Now, they receive updates 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, via mobile phones, which has undoubtedly contributed to increased stress levels, ”said a senior official.

A study conducted by (DIPR) a few years ago had indicated that they perceived humiliation and harassment, beyond their occupational and family causes, at the hands of their superiors, often served as the final trigger for soldiers to commit suicide, since which was then informed by TOI.

The defense ministry says that domestic and personal problems, marital discord, stress, health problems and financial problems have been identified as the main causes behind suicides in the armed forces in several studies conducted by DIPR since 2006.