Depression, frustration and anger claimed over 400 lives in the country’s paramilitary forces in the last three years, according to data provided by the Ministry of Home Affairs to the Rajya Sabha.
All these lives were lost between 2014 and 2017, either because of suicide or fratricide, but suicide clearly accounted for a greater number of lives lost. Over 370 personnel from the paramilitary forces committed suicide.
25 paramilitary personnel lost their lives due to incidents of fratricide (an act of killing one’s own forces in times of war or peace). In the BSF (Border Security Force), five personnel lay down their lives to fratricide. Four lives were lost to fratricide in the CISF (Central Industrial Security Force). The CRPF (Central Reserve Police Force), however, did not provide any data related to fratricide, despite several such incidents being reported from within the force.
According to data received from the BSF, 83 personnel committed suicide between 2015 and 2017, while within the CISF, 55 personnel committed suicide in the same period. Over 60 personnel from the CRPF gave up their lives due to depression and anger between 2015 and 2016.
Dr Aruna Broota, renowned clinical psychologist, feels that the difficult postings given to paramilitary forces, the terrain and loneliness are some of the major factors that affect the psychology of the forces.
Speaking to The Sunday Guardian, she said, “The selection process in the armed forces in the country lacks any psychological analysis of the candidate. Also, most of the personnel in the forces do not have the services of a full-time clinical psychologist, which clearly shows how serious the forces are about this issue. Personality evaluation of an individual is a must before you give combat facility to any person, because anyone with impulsiveness and lack of anger management can cause self harm or harm to their colleagues due to frustration or impulsiveness.”
Dr Broota also said that difficult terrains and loneliness could also cause psychological imbalances in a person, leading to anger or frustration: “In certain areas, there is heavy snow or bright sunlight and the armed forces are subjected to such conditions for a very long time. So they could develop Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), due to which their levels of tolerance, anger and frustration are altered. At times, these personnel also slide into depression, making them take drastic steps.”
The BSF, which guards the borders and at times finds itself in the most difficult situations, has seen a very high number of suicides over the years. However, to combat such situations among its forces, the BSF has introduced a personality assessment test recently for all its personnel across the country, known as the “Wellness Quotient Test”.
According to sources within the BSF, to maintain the mental and physical health of the BSF personnel, and arrest incidents of depression and suicide, this test has been added to their annual medical check-up to enable early detection of any personnel suffering from personality imbalance or depression. This test is done through a questionnaire prepared by an expert, seeking information about their personal life, challenges and conditions.
The CISF spokesperson told The Sunday Guardian that their force is also working towards addressing such pressing issues as any loss of personnel is a great loss for the nation as well to for force.
“We have already introduced yoga as a compulsory practice among our force. Apart from this, we conduct sessions to cope with stress and have a strong and fast grievance redressal mechanism. We also conduct one-to-one interactions with the unit commander and the force. We are working hard to bring this issue to an end within our force,” the spokesperson said.
The response from the CRPF spokesperson could not be obtained until the time of going to press.