An Occupational Hazard.
When it comes to proclaiming their admiration for the Indian Army, our political parties tend to outdo each other. The Armed Forces have the duty of protecting their borders against foreign enemies and keeping their motherland safe even if it takes the ultimate sacrifice. One would think that in this situation, the biggest enemy a soldier would face is the enemy on the other side of the border but it is not so. The soldier would think that the person across the border with a gun always keeping an eye on all his movements is what is most likely to kill him but it is not so.
In the period of 2007 – 2010, 208 soldiers lost their lives fighting, while 368 soldiers committed suicide. The biggest enemy that a soldier has is not the enemy soldier, but his own mind. Minister of Defence, India in 2015 revealed that at least 413 defence personnel have committed suicide since 2012. 334 cases were reported from the army alone during the period. The Air force was next with 67 suicides and the Navy reported 12 such incidents.
A soldier goes through various stressors in his/her life. A civilian’s life is filled with periods of stress which generally pass with time. Unfortunately, for a soldier, their whole life is spent in a long period of stress which the mind sometimes gets used to, and then, sometimes they don’t. In a study conducted by IIM, Bangalore, It was found that the major stressors that a soldier faces which have negative impact range from lack of control at work, role conflict, inadequate awareness about profession, workload and job pressure to indifferent organizational attitude.
We rarely think about this but a soldier is a human as well who has feelings of attachment, sorrow, loss, stress and depression. The Army has a rigid structure which rarely allows lower-ranked soldiers to speak freely and being away from family for extended periods has a negative impact as well.
Among all this talk of mental health, one thing that needs to be mentioned is how effective the rotation policy of the Indian Army has turned out to be in keeping soldiers have a fresher mind. When compared to the US Army individuals, who have spent extended periods in foreign and alien locations like Afghanistan, Indian soldiers in Kashmir have a lower rate of reported stress and depressive feelings.
That said, it is also important that the number of mental health professional in field is increased. It is sad to see that at times like these when our armed forces are in dire need of not only modernization but also improved facilities and access to healthcare, that we see the government cribbing over giving them the necessary share of the defense budget which would be the most basic requirement to take any concrete steps.
This was a piece where I didn’t even mention PTSD and how devastating it can be to a soldier and even without it the situation doesn’t seem any more bright.
You can help our soldiers by donating to foundations of soldier welfare. War wounded foundation and bharat ke veer are two of them. It will help reduce the burden on soldiers once they retire and play a part in their wellness.
We could talk about respecting the soldiers all we want but if we are not doing anything to improve their mental health stability, we might as well be killing them with our own hands.
Rajeev always struggled to make friends. All the friends he had in the past had deserted him. He didn’t wish to talk to new people. He saw things in absolutes and had anger management problems. He had also harmed himself and had thoughts about hurting others. He was lonely. He didn’t have anyone to talk to. His mind told him that he needed new friends but it also told him it wasn’t worth the effort. His mind was conflicted and Rajeev was being pulled apart in the middle. What is he struggling with? How much worse could it get? What is a solution? Find out tomorrow on knightofsteel.com