Why do people commit suicide? Are they really fed up with their life or the circumstances around them compel them to do so? According to various psycho-analysts suicide is nothing but an extempore reaction of some emotional disturbance resulting by some unexpected failure or some irreparable loss. Most of the time a feeling of helplessness in response to some injustice also forces a man to deprive himself of his life; surely the most precious thing one has. The phenomenon of suicide is not limited to those who are physically week or spiritually fragile; sometimes people having a very strong physical condition and unbeatable type of nervous system also fall a prey to this ‘helpless – reaction’. Discussing the increasing rate of suicide, generally in the American society and particularly in the US army, Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki said at a suicide prevention conference, “Of the more than 30,000 suicides in this country each year, fully 20% of them are acts by veterans. That means on average 18 veterans commit suicide each day. Five of those veterans are under our care at VA. So losing five veterans who are in treatment every month, and then not having a shot at the other 13 who for some reason haven’t come under our care, means that we have a lot of work to do.”
Recently The Express Tribune has published a report on the frighteningly increasing rate of suicide in the US army. “The total number of army suicides in the last June was about the same as the number of army troops killed in Afghanistan last month, the deadliest month of the war for US and Natto forces”, says the paper, “The army’s suicide rate in 2009 exceeded the rate among civilians for the first time in decades. The army’s current suicide rate is about 22 deaths per 100,000.” The Washington Post has also reported the same situation. According to the paper, “The US Army suffered 32 suicides in June, the highest number for a single month since January 2009, when the suicide rate in the army began to rise.” The US army is considered no doubt the best army of the world having all possible facilities and securities. The US army-men enjoy a full caring support from their government and their families get an exemplary treatment in case of their death. But even then the rate of suicide in army-men is increasing. The most astonishing fact is that most of these army-men belong to the troops serving in Afghanistan. 80 active-duty soldiers committed suicide or are suspected of having committed suicide in January 2010. Last year in the month of January this number was 88. The Army National Guard, by contrast, had 65 suicides in the first six months, up from 42 in that period last year. The director of the army’s suicide prevention task force Colonel Chris Philbrick says, ‘The increase in suicides was likely driven by the continued stresses on the force caused by the Iraq and Afghanistan wars.”
Colonel Chris Philbrick might be true in his assessment that this increasing rate of suicide is the result of continued stress but what about the Indian soldiers in the Indian Occupied Kashmir who are earnestly trying to surpass the US army in the race of committing suicide. As reported by the Kashmir Media Service, ‘There has been an increase in the incidents of suicide by Indian troops in Jammu region where there is little operational stress on soldiers. The troopers have gone furious and shooting at the colleagues and officers has become a routine matter.” This is not a ‘new born’ situation, the soldiers and the officers of the Indian army have been behaving in the same way for the last many years. Sandeep Unnithan portrayed a very pathetic picture in the India Today of June 25; 2007.The caption given to this picture was ‘Depressed Triggers’. “A shot rang out in the early hours of May 8 at a Border Security Force (BSF) camp in Barmer on the Rajasthan border. When the sleepy BSF post personnel awoke, they found Constable Vishal Singh lying dead with a gaping wound in his chest. He had turned his 5.56 mm rifle towards himself and pressed the trigger, becoming the 10th BSF trooper to commit suicide this year. Preliminary inquiries revealed that the 27-year-old had shot himself hours after speaking with his wife. Just two days earlier, Trilok Singh, a BSF constable based in Gurdaspur, had received an emotional phone call from his wife complaining that his brother had made advances towards her. Trilok shot himself a few hours later.”
The stories of Vishal Singh and Trilok Singh must not be taken as the bed-time stories; they are simply the eye-openers. In the last June the Indian Ministry of Defence released a very heart rending report pointing out that every third day an Indian soldier is killing himself. The situation is more horrifying with reference to the soldiers deputed along the LoC in the Indian Occupied Kashmir. This rate of killing is higher than the toll taken by militants. From 2007 to May 2010, militants have killed 208 soldiers; whereas 368 soldiers have killed themselves in the same period.
The case with the Israeli army is also not much different from those of the US army and the Indian Army. Recently Ynet Israeli news website mentioned that during the first half of 2010, 19 soldiers put an end to their own lives compared to 21 in the whole of 2009. At the beginning of the decade the IOF reported 30 suicides in one year and in 2005 there were 35 cases of suicide. . Moreover, many Israeli soldiers who fought in Gaza during Israeli war on Gaza are still suffering from sever psychological diseases due to powerful resistance of Palestinians in Gaza. Number of suicides among Israeli soldiers shows that they are forced to serve in army. No doubt that new generation of Israeli soldiers is a defeated one possessing no principles to fight for, says the Ynet.
The increasing rate of suicide in the US, Israel and the Indian armies is something very serious which must not be ignored. It is the responsibility of the concerning governments to analyse the situation sympathetically. The three countries must constitute joint medical research council and ask it to probe into the matter and trace out the possible remedies. Such research council would not be able to work properly unless senior and experienced psychiatrists are included in it. Desire for suicide is simply a psychological disease and it must be treated by psychiatrists. These countries may contact the Pakistan Army for a better solution of this problem because there has never been even a single example of any officer or the soldiers of the Pakistan Army who tried to commit suicide.
The writer is a Pakistan based analyst on defence and strategic affairs.