The IDF Medical Corps examined over 20 years’ worth of data for over 1.2 million IDF soldiers since 1995 to find common factors behind soldier suicide – a not-uncommon phenomenon.
While the soldiers’ youth, proximity to guns, and stress have all been cited as factors, the ties between suicide and origin were particularly surprising.
Suicide rates among Ethiopian IDF soldiers are “always much higher than [soldiers of] other populations,” the study says, as quoted in Army Radio. Suicide rates are also high among soldiers from Russia and the Former Soviet Union (FSU).
Soldiers from lower socioeconomic backgrounds and with lower motivations to join combat units are also far more likely to commit suicide, the study notes.
Gender plays a role as well: over 90% of the 462 suicides over the past year in the IDF were men.
The most surprising, researchers told the news agency, is the finding that IDF soldiers with previous psychiatric disorders and diagnoses were much less likely to commit suicide. Apparently, psychological help itself saves lives by bringing the issue to the surface.
Overall, researchers concluded, the IDF needs to ensure early monitoring of soldiers at risk – and place them in the IDF accordingly.
Mental health teams within the military will be instructed to pay particular attention to IDF soldiers from social and ethnic minority groups, and are instructed to work on a long-term plan to reduce the social stigma of seeking help.