Over half of Army personnel under severe stress: study

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More than half of Indian Army personnel seem to be under severe stress, according to the findings of a study by United Service Institution of India (USI), a Service think tank.

The research was undertaken during 2019-20 by Col. AK Mor, Senior Research Fellow at the United Service Institution of India (USI).

Highlights of the study:

  • The Army has been losing more personnel every year due to suicides, fratricides and untoward incidents than in response to any enemy or terrorist activities.
  • Prolonged exposure of Indian Army personnel to Counter Insurgency and Counter Terrorism (CI/CT) environment has been one of the contributory factors for increased stress levels.
  • This loss is substantially greater than the operational casualties suffered by the Armed forces. In addition, a number of soldiers and leaders have been affected by hypertension, heart diseases, psychosis, neurosis and other related ailments.
  • Officers experience comparatively much higher cumulative stress levels, compared to the Junior Commissioned Officers (JCO) and Other Ranks (OR) and the stress causative factors are also different.
  • Inadequacies in the quality of leadership, overburdened commitments, inadequate resources, frequent dislocations, lack of fairness and transparency in postings and promotions, insufficient accommodation, indifferent attitude of civilian officials, etc. are said to be the cause of stress.
  • Among Lower Rank Officials, the stress is said to be due to excessive engagements, domestic problems, lack of dignity, lack of recreational facilities and conflict with seniors as well as subordinates, etc.

Steps taken by the government-

  • Provision of better quality of facilities such as clothing, food, married accommodation, travel facilities, schooling, recreation etc. and periodic welfare meeting.
  • Conduct of yoga and meditation as a tool for stress management.
  • Training and deployment of psychological counsellors.
  • Institutionalization of projects ‘MILAP’ and ‘SAHYOG’ by the Army in Northern & Eastern Command to reduce stress among troops.
  • A ‘Mansik Sahayata Helpline’ has been established by the Army & Air Force to take professional counselling.
  • Mental Health Awareness is provided during pre-induction training.
  • Formation of Military Psychiatry Treatment Centre at INHS Asvini and establishment of Mental Health Centres in Mumbai, Visakhapatnam, Kochi, Port Blair, Goa and Karwar.
  • Previously, Defence Institute of Psychological Research (DIPR) had completed research projects that focused on identifying factors causing suicides among troops deployed in Field and Peace areas. It had found in its studies that not getting timely leave was one of the stress factors triggering suicidal behaviour.

The Army has rejected the study, stressing that the sample size for the survey was too “miniscule” to arrive at such “far reaching” conclusions. The study has been done by one individual, with a sample size of around 400 soldiers.

It has been recommended that there should be rationalizing grant of leave, counselling at the time of leave, decrease workload, reduction in tenure of deployment, increase in pay and allowances, improvement in living conditions, building better interpersonal relations between the officers and men, training programmes in stress management and psychological counselling, enhancing basic and recreation activities and redressal of grievances.