An IDF soldier.
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
There was a significant decrease in the number of suicides in the Israel Defense Forces in 2018, almost half from the previous year the army has said.
According to annual statistics released on Wednesday, of the 43 IDF soldiers who died in 2018, eight of them are suspected of committing suicide. Another two died in training accidents, eight were killed in combat, 10 died from medical reasons and 14 were killed in traffic accidents.
Of the fatalities, 27 were conscripts, seven were officers, five were non-commissioned officers, one was a reservist and three died after prolonged hospitalization.
In comparison with the previous three years where suicide had been the leading cause of death in the IDF, the majority of fatalities in 2018 were due to car accidents.
The general downward trend in suicide in the IDF has been credited to restricted access to weapons on the one hand and the army’s efforts in suicide prevention on the other. The army launched an extensive plan to prevent suicide in 2006, with numerous programs designed to better train commanders to identify soldiers who may have suicidal thoughts and streamlining army procedures to ensure all relevant information is received by mental health officers as soldiers move between units.
Since the program was implemented, the military has seen a dramatic decline in suicides of over 50%.
According to the military, the suicide rate has been decreasing over the last three decades from there being some 50-70 suicides per year. From 2005 to 2011 the army saw a dramatic decrease to 26-28 suicides a year, followed by some 15 suicides per year between 2014-2016.
In 2017 there were 16 suspected suicides.
“We are talking about the lowest number in the past five years,” said a senior officer in the Manpower Directorate.
While there is no specific characterization of soldiers who committed suicide this year, all but one were males and the vast majority occurred during initial training and during compulsory service. All but one of the soldiers who committed suicide were Israeli-born.
According to the figures released by the Manpower Directorate, the IDF fatalities in 2018 was seven fewer than the year before which saw 55 soldiers died, but two higher than in 2016 when there were 41 soldiers who lost their lives.
“For us, every one of these deaths is an entire world, and we are continuing to work and act so that next year the number will be zero,” the senior officer said, adding that while the military praises the drop “we will do everything to try to bring down the numbers as much as possible.”
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