Annual mental health checks made mandatory for BSF soldiers after high suicides

The Border Security Force (BSF) has made it mandatory for all its soldiers to undergo an annual test to determine their mental health. This is after the high number of suicides among its personnel.

Depending on how they do in the test, the soldiers will be assigned duties and corrective measures taken. Until now only annual physical tests were held to see if soldiers were fit to perform their duties.

The BSF has also come up with a set of guidelines to ensure leisure time for soldiers. There will be regular meetings held where they can talk about their personal matters and a system to address grievances.

For over a year, the BSF has studied the pattern of suicides by its soldiers and analysed the reasons. Two hundred BSF medics were trained in clinical psychology in consultation with psychiatrists from London to conduct the tests to determine mental health of jawans.

Research showed that suicides were higher among personnel from poor socio-economic background, and mostly among the 25-35 age group.

Poor motivation, alcohol dependency, sleep disorders, marital problems and financial issues were identified as factors leading to stress and depression and eventually suicides.

The study found that in some cases the signs of mental strain were so subtle that only a company commander trained in clinical psychology would be able to spot it.

Units are being asked to set up groups and organise sessions, called Ghar Ki Baat, where soldiers can talk about their problems and experiences.

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