Not only a "secular disease". Data published by the IDF Personnel Directorate reveals that the rate of ultra-Orthodox who obtain psychiatric exemptions is five times higher than among secular people, although they have another "escape route" out of military service.
Recruitment data from the past year indicated that 12% of total recruits were haredim who were exempt from military service based on religious reasons.
Another 6.5% of recruits were released due to medical problems, 4.5% of which were given psychiatric exemptions (profile 21), and 2% were haredim that could have also obtained an exemption based on religious reasons.
The implication is that some 45% of those who receive psychiatric exemptions from the IDF are haredim, although they only constitute 14% of the total number of annual recruits.
The number of haredim that are released on profile 21 is five times higher than the number of seculars, and is much higher than what has been officially reported thus far.
The IDF Personnel Directorate explained the phenomenon by claiming it is much easier to issue exemptions based on a profile 21 than it is to postpone military service due to religious studies.
During a recent meeting behind closed doors, IDF Personnel Directorate head Major-General Avi Zamir was quoted as saying, "We would expect the haredi sector of all people to act honestly."
MK Yohanan Plesner (Kadima), who is acting to promote haredi recruitment, explained that haredi youth that postpone their military service are not allowed to work or leave the country, and are obliged to study at least 45 hours a week. Therefore, the majority of haredim prefer to get psychiatric exemptions.
"The data is amazing and shatters the existing stigma vis-à-vis the rate of psychiatric exemptions among the secular sector," said Plesner.
"We realized that the number of volunteers among non-haredim is unusually high, while the rate of service dodgers in the haredi sector is higher than what we previously thought. We need to act swiftly in order to battle this phenomenon," he added.
Major-General Eliezer Stern, who served as the IDF Personnel Directorate head up until three years ago, spoke adamantly against the phenomenon, saying "they pretend to be psychos in order to get an exemption because it is convenient for them.
"Psychological problems are not an exact science, and those who really want out can play the role and would not be caught. Bnei Brak and Jerusalem do not have a higher rate of mental problems than Ra'anana, and as far as I am concerned it is a form of fraud that the haredi leadership knows about, but does not condemn," he said.
According to an official at the IDF mental health department, it is easier for haredim to fool mental health officers because they do not understand and know the haredi sector as well as the secular one.
Senior clinical psychologist Dr. Dafna Katzenelson-Barak explained that lying in order to dodge military service is an acceptable norm among the haredi sector.
In recent years, Dr. Katzenelson-Barak has treated many cases of adult haredim who want to reverse their psychological exemption because of its implications. "They don’t realize the consequences of having a psychiatric profile," she explained.
"Unlike the secular public, which is highly trained and knows what to say to the mental health officer so that it does not harm them in the future, the haredm make up extreme psychological scenarios. Later on they have a difficulty appealing it," she added.
Dr. Katzenelson-Barak noted that young haredim obtain letters from private psychologists that testify of their mental problems ahead of their enlistment, which leaves mental health officers with little options.
She called on her colleagues to stop encouraging the phenomenon – both among seculars and haredim.