Sixteen Israeli soldiers committed suicide in 2017, IDF announces

Israel sees an average of 400-500 suicides every year.

IDF soldiers in training  (photo credit: IDF SPOKESMAN’S UNIT)
IDF soldiers in training
(photo credit: IDF SPOKESMAN’S UNIT)
Despite a significant decrease in suicide rates in the IDF over the past decade, 16 soldiers still committed suicide this past year, the army announced on Tuesday.
According to the head of the army’s Manpower Directorate Brig. Gen. Meirav Kirshner, while there has been a significant long-term decrease in IDF suicide rates, there was still one more suicide in 2017 than there was in 2016.
Of those who committed suicide this past year, 13 were conscripts, two were officers and one was in the reserves.
The vast majority of suicides this year and in previous years were during the soldier’s service, and not during basic training as is commonly assumed, Kirshner said, adding that, although a decade ago the suicide rate was higher among immigrant and other specific groups, this is now no longer the case.
The army launched an extensive plan to prevent suicide in 2006, when 28 soldiers took their own lives. According to Kirshner the data show a dramatic decline of almost 50% since the program was implemented.
Data released by the army showed that since the beginning of the program – which includes two call centers, manned 24/7 for soldiers in distress – suicide rates have fluctuated from a high of 28 in 2006 (coinciding with the Second Lebanon War) and 2010 to a low of six in 2013.
In July a senior Medical Corps officer told The Jerusalem Post that the general downward trend in suicide is due both to restricted access to weapons and the army’s efforts in suicide prevention.
“Compared to 2006 the number of soldiers going home with their weapons is much lower. Combat soldiers need their weapon and we cannot take it away from them, but controlling and restricting firearms to those who need it for their job is the most efficient way to prevent suicide,” the senior medical officer said.