How does stress play out in one of the most difficult professions there is? | In Focus podcast

Early in March, a public interest litigation petition came up in the Supreme Court -- two retired CRPF personnel said that between 2007 and 2019, 148 Central Armed Police Forces personnel, deployed in Naxal-affected Bastar district, died by suicide. This is not the only statistic about defence personnel dying by suicide -- from 2014 to 2021, nearly 800 Army, Navy and Air Force personnel died by suicide. In August last year, the Rajya Sabha was informed that 680 paramilitary personnel had died by suicide over the previous six years -- this was higher than the 323 personnel who died due to encounters. This apart, between 2014 and 2021, there were 20 cases of fratricides -- where defence personnel have turned on their colleagues, killing them and in many cases, then killing themselves too.

The government has said that difficulty in dealing with family problems from a distance, conflict trauma, the strain of deployment in conflict and border zones, all contribute to mental health stress among personnel. It has also pointed to a number of measures initiated -- such as psychological counselors in combat zones, better food and clothing, a ‘buddy system’ and a liberalized leave system, along with suicide prevention policies. Some retired officers however, point to other, internal issues: poor leadership and not being able to avail of leave when they need it, are some concerns raised. There is also a significant difference in the services available to those in the military forces and those who serve in the paramilitary forces.

How does stress play out in arguably one of the most difficult professions there is? How much of a role does stigma play in the seeking of mental health care? And what can be done to help tackle this issue?

Guest: Dr. Soumitra Pathare, consultant psychiatrist and director of the Centre for Mental Health Law & Policy at Indian Law Society in Pune

Host: Zubeda Hamid

Edited by Reenu Cyriac

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