Is stress the Indian Army's biggest enemy? This is how it claims over a 100 soldiers every year

Deepak, 10/08/2017
Is stress the Indian Army

In a world where everyday is a cut-throat competition to reach the top, stress is something we have all 'learnt' to live with.

Financial issues, relationships, jobs, health problems, societal pressures – the list of things in life that pressurize us are endless.

We are so caught up with stressing about our own lives and problems, that we forget to think about those who have one of the most stressful jobs in the world – the Army.

India has the third largest and strongest Army in the world – a status that has been achieved through immense struggle and a display of unwavering courage and bravery.

Sadly, however, the 15-lakh strong armed forces continue to to lose over 100 personnel in stress-related deaths in the form of suicides and fragging or fratricide (to kill a fellow-soldier or superior) every year.

As per a report in the Times of India (TOI), there have been 44 suicides and a fratricide case in the Army alone this year.

On Tuesday, the defence ministry informed the Parliament of the suicides of 310 Army soldiers, including nine officers and 19 junior commissioned officers since 2014, also reporting 11 cases of fratricide during the period.

According to the report, minister of state for defence Subhash Bhamre, in a written reply to the Rajya Sabha, said while 84 soldiers had committed suicide in 2014, the numbers in 2015 and 2016 stood at 78 and 104 respectively.

As for the solitary fratricide incident this year, an Army jawan had shot dead Major Shikar Thapa in a forward post in the Uri sector along the Line of Control in Jammu and Kashmir on July 17. Naik Kathi Resan had fired two bursts from his AK-47 assault rifle at the young officer after being scolded for using a mobile phone during guard duty, as was then reported by TOI.

Despite stringent measures and action being taken to contain the cases of stress-induced suicide and fratricide, the defence establishment hasn't been able to reduce stress among soldiers. Not just soldiers, this problem is also relevant among airmen and sailors deployed far away from their families.

Taking care of an entire country and protecting it against alien forces is a job, the magnitude of which is impossible to comprehend. Our soldiers stay far away from their families for months – leading up to years, sometimes without any communication.

The mental stress of not being able to take care of their families and their problems back home, along with prolonged deployment in counter-insurgency operations in J&K and North-East also takes a toll on their physical endurance as well as their mental health.

Add to this the problem of poor salaries, denial of leave, lack of basic amenities, ineffectual leadership and sometimes humiliation at the hands of their officers, which only makes their problems worse.

According to TOI, the defence ministry, on its part, says that a large number of officers have been trained as counsellors, apart from hiring of some civilian psychological counsellors to provide "mental health services".

Other measures include improvement in living and working conditions, provision of additional family accommodation and a liberalised leave policy as well as strengthening of grievance redressal mechanisms and the conduct of yoga and meditation as part of a unit's routine.

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