Minister of state for defence Subhash Bhamre, in a written reply to Rajya Sabha on Monday, said 104 personnel (80 soldiers, 16 airmen, and eight sailors) are “suspected” to have committed suicide in 2018. The toll in 2016 stood at 129, while it was 101 in 2017. Moreover, there are also a few cases of fragging or fratricide (to kill a fellow-soldier or superior) every year.
As reported by TOI earlier, soldiers often undergo tremendous mental stress for not being able to take care of the problems being faced by their families back home, which could range from property disputes and harassment by anti-social elements to financial and marital problems.
Prolonged deployment in counter-insurgency operations in J&K and North-East also takes a toll on the physical endurance and mental health of soldiers. All this is also compounded by poor salaries, denial of leave, lack of basic amenities, ineffectual leadership and sometimes humiliation at the hands of their officers.
Bhamre, on his part, said various steps have been taken by the armed forces to “create a healthy and appropriate environment” for their officers and other ranks. These range from improvement in living and working conditions, provision of additional family accommodation and a liberalized leave policy to training and deployment of psychological counsellors and the conduct of yoga and meditation as tools for stress management.
“A ‘mansik sahayata helpline’ has been established by the Army and IAF for professional counselling. Mental health awareness is also being provided during pre-induction training. A Military Psychiatry Treatment Centre has also been set up at INHS Asvini and mental health centres in Mumbai, Visakhapatnam, Kochi, Port Blair, Goa, and Karwar,” he said.