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World Health Day: Combating the increasing suicide cases in Indian Defence Forces

World Health Day: Combating the increasing suicide cases in Indian Defence Forces

With the advent of the last two decades, suicides emerged to be one of the biggest problems troubling the younger as well as the adult generation. The number of suicide cases due to depression, anxiety, and peer pressure posed an alarming threat to the misguided youth of the century. But while the major focus was laid at educating the teenage population, another section of the population also showed signs of depression which demanded urgent attention from the authorities; and these were none other than the brave soldiers of the Indian Defense Forces.

Our men at arms face very diverse situations while in the line of duty. From staying at extreme weather conditions, extreme war trauma diminished personal life, as well as no surety of life, takes a heavy but silent toll on one’s brain. Army men who return from war have seen to have extreme post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) with very symptoms ranging from mild or severe depression to even suicidal tendencies.

Our Indian defense forces have approx. 900 reported suicide cases, in which more than half of the cases were reported in the Indian Army and the least in the Indian Navy. In 2016, 104 suicide cases were recorded with 80 cases in 2018 alone. The cases of suicides are not only limited to the army but also include CRPF, CISP, BSF, Assam Rifles as well as Sahastra Seema Bal.

Causes of suicidal mentality can arise from various other reasons too. Starting from the training, the immense mental, physical and physiological pressure given creates a huge personality shift in the minds of the army cadets. Relocation to difficult terrain with adverse weather conditions as well as prolonged periods of loneliness and isolation can prove to be difficult to cope with. During the war, soldiers sometimes also find it difficult to deal with some of their acts done in war, which can embed a long-lasting sense of guilt in their minds. Death of a comrade or a close friend can also result in traumatic shocks.

Also, retirement at an early age can create a sense of lack of purpose of life in the life of an army man. With increased family commitments, financial problems due to less salary or irregular pension money can also result in an anxiety problem for the army men.

So after knowing the cause, what steps can or have been taken?

Since the alarming rate of suicides has been noticed by the government, many reforms have been reformed by the government as well as the senior army employees. Yoga sessions have been started as an active part in the training of the army personnel’s. Even the highest battlefield in the world, Siachen Glacier, has marked multiple yoga sessions performed by the soldiers there. For increasing transparency and identifying possible trauma signs in the soldiers, there is increased communication in the senior and junior ranks. At the very basic level, the government has also worked to improve the clothing, food, travel and lodging conditions for the army men to ease their stress levels. There are also periodic ‘welfare meetings’ with counselors to understand the nature and gravity of the situations of the soldiers and help them as such. The government has also set up electronic forums as well as helpline portals, ‘Mansik Sahayta helpline’ to help soldiers with their problems as much as they can. Recently, the army has also started to distribute pamphlets and booklets to help soldiers know more about the problem and possible solutions that they can try.   

Although war is never an easy job for the soldiers to cope with, it is imperative to come up with some ground solutions and help which is always available for the soldier to help through any psychological problems they might face. Suicide rates can be reduced with a collective understanding of the problem; protection of our protectors is as much our duty as the other way round.

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