Mental Health Challenges in Uniformed Forces

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    • The government needs to ensure the mental well-being of uniformed personnel. 

    Causes for Mental Health Issues in the Uniformed Forces

    • Strict Hierarchy:
      • Uniformed forces are tightly structured with a command-and-control hierarchy system. The hierarchy is rarely breached. The system ensures discipline, clarity of roles and accountability. 
      • However, it tends to become inhuman, especially to those who cannot communicate their personal issues in an appropriate forum.
    • Less Recognition & More Persecution:
      • The constabulary accounts for around 85 per cent of state police and CAPFs. These personnel perform their duties as directed by their seniors. 
      • They mostly remain in the background of the organisation with less recognition for their achievements and more frequent persecution for failure. 
    • Overlooking the Stress: 
      • The stress affecting the mental well-being of uniformed personnel is downplayed and overlooked. 
      • Many personnel had shown signs of mental stress but these signs were not given enough attention.
    • Stigma Towards Mental Stress:
      • Mental stress is a less-understood medical condition in India. 
      • Those who express the problem are termed as weak and are seen as shying away from the rigours of life. 
      • In a uniformed setup, subordinate staff do not want to appear weak as the “macho man” stereotype weighs them down.
    • Alcoholism & Drug Abuse:
      • To cope with the difficulty of such a setup, personnel often resort to alcoholism and drug abuse. 
      • In the latter cases, defaulters are punished as per the law and suitable departmental action is also taken. 

    Impact of Mental Health Issues

    • Leads to Various Disorders:
      • The main conditions include post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), generalised anxiety disorder (GAD), panic disorder, and substance use disorder.
      • This impact can aggravate other medical conditions and ailments and usually extends beyond active service period into the post-retirement life.
    • Damages the Career:
      • Untreated mental illness can damage the career. If the symptoms are severe, the commanding officer may require duty limitations or recommend separation from the military for medical reasons.
    • Adversely Affects Motivation:
      • Rising mental health issues among the forces negatively impact their daily operations and motivation to continue their service.

    Way Ahead

    • Role of Leadership & Better Communication:
      • The police leadership should strive to create a working environment that provides personal fulfilment to personnel and reduces the chances of mental stress and illness.
      • As police leaders, we must increase communication with all the ranks. 
      • The senior’s office should be open to all ranks 24/7. 
      • During random inspections on the field, friendly communication with personnel on duty does not hurt discipline — it only increases his trust in the leadership and dedication to duty. 
    • Better Service Conditions:
      • A salary alone may not provide them with enough job satisfaction vis-a-vis the hardships they endure. 
      • Good working conditions, leave, allowances and housing should be provided as entitlements. 
    • Enhanced Funding:
      • Over the years, more recruitment and better funding have contributed to the fulfilment of some of these entitlements. Yet, there is a long way to go.
    • Formalised Incentive System:
      • Reward and recognition act as big motivators. 
      • The incentive system has to be formalised in every setup. 
    • Discipline with Well-being:
      • The enforcement of discipline has to go hand-in-hand with concern for staff well-being. 
      • Bad apples should be eliminated but those with underlying issues must be identified and a different approach adopted. 
    • Grievance Redressal: 
      • Regular sampark sabhas need to be conducted where personnel can air their grievances and proper follow-up action must be taken on all possible issues. 
    • Sports and Cultural programmes: 
      • The sports and cultural programmes could increase bonhomie and create bonds between personnel, who support each other during crises.

    Source: IE