IDF Adopting Measures to Stave Off Increasing Number of Soldier Suicides

January 4, 2015

2 min read

Suicides in the Israeli military reached an all time high five years ago. In 2009, the IDF attributed 30 deaths to suicide. Since then, numbers drastically declined with only seven suicides in 2013.

However, in an unfortunate turnaround which has some in the IDF worried, the number of soldier suicides has increased for the first time in 2014-15.

The startling statistics were reported by the IDF manpower division at the year’s end. Manpower Division Chief of Staff Gen. Gadi Agmon stated in the report that: “This year, 105 soldiers were killed for various reasons – both in action and civilian operations. Fifteen of them were deemed suicides.”

In order to gain a greater understanding of why the soldiers chose to take their own lives, the division analyzes each case individually. “For every suspected suicide,” he said, “there is a police investigation, a commission of inquiry headed by the commanders from each unit, and a Manpower Division inquiry.”

While suicide is not new to the IDF, the fact that the numbers have continuously diminished leading up to this year speaks volumes for a military that has been through three large scale military operations since 2009.

According to Agmon’s assessment, the rise in the number of suicides has nothing to do with Operation Protective Edge from this past summer. Throughout the ongoing conflict with Gaza, which has included operation Cast Lead (2008-2009), Pillar of Defense (2012) and Protective Edge (2014), the numbers continued to decline until the spike this year.

Agmon explained that the IDF has taken numerous measures to help stem the tide and eliminate suicides within the IDF. The measures taken include limiting the number of weapons per unit, limiting access to weapons and the number of soldiers to carry weapons off-base, running workshops to help soldiers spot signs of depression and anxiety among their comrades, and initiating a special training course to help soldiers identify and treat cases of PTSD immediately while still on the battlefield.

While the IDF is working on the issue, there is always more work that can be done. Agmon called upon civilian sources to help in whatever way they can by identifying depression among youngsters and preparing youth before they begin active service.

“I call on the Civilian Advisory Committee, which examines suicide cases in general among teenagers and adolescents, to consider more options [for working against suicide] over the next few weeks,” he stated.

There is also help outside of the IDF network that is available for soldiers in the guise of emergency trauma call centers, and a wide array of social workers that can help talk to soldiers.

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