The number of IDF soldiers who commit suicide is again on the rise after a decline of tens of percentage points during recent years which followed the army's implementation of various programs to fight suicide within its ranks.
During the first half of 2010, 19 soldiers put an end to their own lives compared to 21 in the whole of 2009. At the beginning of the decade the IDF reported 30 suicides in one year and in 2005 there were 35 cases of suicide.
As a result, the IDF prepared a training program to help commanders recognize serious psychological distress among soldiers and thus enable necessary assistance to be offered in time. As part of the program, it was decided to reduce the number of administration soldiers who take a personal weapon home.
Officers will learn to recognize distress (Archive photo: Yaron Brener)
In the years 2007-2009, there was a decline in the number of suicides, no more than 24 in one year, which makes the recent rise even more concerning.
No link to army service
Military sources said to Ynet that extensive investigations in the past had revealed that most cases of suicide in the army were not connected to military service. Initial investigations into this year's cases show similar findings. However, every case is investigated independently and there is nothing in the data to indicate how the year will end.
The IDF noted that in a number of cases in which career soldiers put an end to their own lives, there was no connection to their military service. But the IDF also investigates whether there was any negligence on the part of commanders which had led to suicide.
In 2008 Ynet reported that for the first time, two officers had been convicted of a criminal offense for failing to prevent the suicide of a soldier who showed signs of psychological distress. In the same case, a mental health officer was tried in a disciplinary trial for failing to assist the soldier.
"This is a sensitive issue which is being given full attention," said one source. "Many debates are being held on this issue and each case is investigated as well as the circumstances around it to see what happened, why and how. This is how we'll continue to work in the future."