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Army to Conduct Psychological Tests During Recruits to Curb Suicides

The Indian Army is to conduct psychological tests on its recruits in a bid to control the large number of suicides and fratricides that have occurred in the past few years, a defence scientist said Friday.

"Through the new tests (being introduced from October), we would be able to gauge the personality of a recruit, his ability to grasp a given situation and the ratio of positive to negative traits," Manas Kumar Mandal, who heads the Defence Institute of Psychological Research (DIPR), said at a press conference here.

The Indian Army witnessed a staggering 120 suicides in 2006, as also 23 incidents of fratricide. This year alone, there have been 16 suicides in the army and four cases of fratricide.

Under the present system, recruits have to pass a physical test after which they have to clear a written examination. "This system neither tests the intelligence, the personality nor the aptitude of the recruits. By now conducting these psychological tests, we will be able to identify those who could be at greater risk of combat stress later in their careers," Mandal pointed.

Hitherto, only officer aspirants are put through psychological tests before being admitted to the National Defence Academy (NDA). The introduction of the tests for recruits is one of the major recommendations of a DIPR committee that was tasked by Defence Minister A.K. Antony to study the alarming spurt of suicides and fratricides and suggest corrective measures.

The incidents have been attributed to a variety of reasons like combat-induced stress, long periods of separation from families, domestic problems at home, and the breakdown of interpersonal relations.

Earlier this year, army courts sentenced two soldiers to death for killing their seniors in 2006. Another measure recommended by the DIPR committee is the introduction of a cadre of combat psychologists who would be trained both in soldiering and in countering stress-related issues.

"These combat psychologists would move with soldiers in the field to provide immediate counselling if the need arises," Mandal explained. The defence ministry has already taken a series of counter measures, including counselling and yoga classes, to help soldiers cope with stress.

This apart, religious teachers, junior commissioned officers (JCOs) of the Army Education Corps (AEC) and regimental medical officers have been identified as psychological health mentors, trained in psychiatry and have been posted at various units.

Fifty JCOs of the Army Medical Corps (AMC) have been trained as counsellors and posted to the northern and eastern commands where troops are engaged in counter-insurgency operations.

Among other steps, rotation of units and individuals has been ordered to minimise exposure to stress, and leave rules have liberalised to permit splitting of causal and annual leave.


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