Mental Health issues in Armed forces

Mental Health issues in Armed forces

News: Court of Inquiry’s findings about a case of fratricide (killing of one’s brother or sister) at a Border Security Force (BSF) camp in Amritsar highlighted that the person who shot his colleagues had shown signs of mental stress but these signs were not given enough attention.

Why do we observe mental health issues in armed forces?

Tightly structured hierarchy
• Uniformed forces are tightly structured with a command-and-control hierarchy system. A senior officer is the reporting authority for his immediate junior and this junior has to fulfil their tasks with manpower under his/her command.
• While the hierarchy is rarely breached and it brings discipline. However, it often tends to become inhuman especially for those who cannot communicate their grievances in an appropriate forum.

Stress issue not addressed
• Uniformed forces showing signs of mental stress are not given enough attention. Those who express the problem are termed as weak and are seen as shying away from the rigors of life.

Urge for alcoholism and drugs
• To cope with the difficulty of the types of setups, personnel often resort to alcoholism and drug abuse.
• In the latter cases, defaulters are punished as per the law and suitable departmental action is also taken.

Less credit being given for carrying out duties
• The constabulary accounts for around 85 per cent of state police and CAPFs. These personnel perform their duties as directed by their seniors.
• They mostly remain in the background of the organization with little recognition for their achievements.

What should be done?
• Police leaders must increase communication with all the ranks. The enforcement of discipline has to go hand-in-hand with concern for staff well-being.
• Regular sampark sabhas need to be conducted where personnel can air their grievances and proper follow-up action must be taken on all possible issues.
• Police personnel should be made aware of mental issues and related concerns so that stigma surrounding it is gradually removed.
• Allowing their family members regular visits or even making efforts to ensure close family members live with these personnel can do a lot of good to mental health of our armed personnel. The government can help with finances in this area.
• Reward and recognition act as big motivators. Often, the incentive system is at the whims and fancy of the head of the organisation. It has to be formalised in every setup.
• Regular team meetings, sports and cultural activities help build good relations amongst armed personnel which can bring them closer.
• Lastly, good working conditions, leave, allowances and housing can be provided as entitlements.

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