In the past seven months, two major fratricide incidents have occurred in the Indian Army, resulting in the deaths of four soldiers and injuries to at least one.
The first incident took place in April, when an army soldier shot dead four of his fellow colleagues from an artillery unit at Bathinda military station.
The second incident occurred just last month (October) when a Major-ranked officer opened fire on his colleagues and subordinates in Thanamandi in Jammu and Kashmir's Rajouri district.
The officer also threw a grenade at those attempting to persuade him to surrender. This was the first-of-its-kind incident where an officer has fired on his colleagues.
Between 2014 and 2021, approximately 18 fratricidal incidents were reported, none of which involved an officer.
To address these repeated fratricidal incidents, the army launched a study in August 2023, in collaboration with the Defence Institute of Psychological Research (DIPR), to assess the mental health of the troops, reported The Hindu.
Another pilot project is underway to evaluate the mental well-being of military personnel and their families, according to the report.
The army's advisory from August 2023 specifies the deployment of officers and religious teachers, including at least one Pandit, Maulvi, Granthi, or Pastor, in each unit. Selected other ranks are also undergoing training in counseling techniques.
“A pilot project with a civil agency (Disha Kiran) is being conducted at three nodal military stations to assess the mental well-being of military personnel and their families,” said the report regarding psychometric assessment.
The study, conducted under the Discipline and Vigilance Directorate in collaboration with the DIPR using detailed questionnaires, is expected to conclude by the end of the year.
The advisory offers guidelines to address factors leading to increased stress levels, identifies warning signs in individuals, and outlines necessary intervention measures at various levels, according to the report.
In terms of routine measures, report states that 30 officers receive training at the Defence Institute of Psychological Research (DIPR) annually.
Additionally, "Religious Teachers Counsellor Courses" are conducted for four weeks each, at the command hospitals, base hospitals, and military hospitals.
To further address mental well-being, civilian counselors are being deployed in all major military stations by the Indian Army.
As part of awareness-building efforts, seminars on mental well-being, financial management, and domestic issues management are regularly conducted by subject matter experts. Helplines have been established across all Command Headquarters to provide immediate counseling support.
“Psychiatry Centres have been established at all major military stations under the Directorate General of Medical Service. Stress management sessions are held at all military stations,” one of the sources said.
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