BSF to fight ‘mental illness, lifestyle diseases’ among jawans


Concerned over the phenomenon that more Border Security Force (BSF), personnel are dying of mental illness and lifestyle diseases than in line of duty, India’s largest border-guarding force has launched two ambitious projects for its jawans. The force has introduced a ‘wellness quotient assessment’ test in their annual medical checkup.

About 2.65-lakh personnel strong force, tasked to secure the two most important Indian borders along Pakistan and Bangladesh, has earmarked select troops locations, men and women for the conduct of the maiden and scientifically prepared pilot projects.

Pertinently, studies within the force have indicated that number of deaths of force personnel was more due to illness (both physical and mental) than being operational casualties. The studies through the medical directorate of the BSF have listed out many indicators of lifestyle diseases as well.

BSF, Director General K K Sharma, said he has initiated the projects with a concern to reduce such instances in the force on a priority basis.

“It is true that deaths due to heart attacks, suicides and accidents have killed more troops than in operations in the past. But, as far as suicides is concerned, this number has come down due to a number of steps we have taken and a number of capsule courses on stress management that were started.

“We are doing some new things now, so that there is an early identification of such personnel (who are in stress or in trouble) and such instances are reduced to the best extent possible,” the BSF DG said.

What we have launched recently is a ‘wellness quotient assessment test’, the DG said, adding it is a multi-point questionnaire which is being “linked” to the annual medical test of jawans and officers.

Notably, the DG while speaking at the inauguration of a workshop in New Delhi on mental health and well-being of central armed police forces (CAPFs) personnel through Global Mental Health Assessment Tools (GMHAT) in May this year said his force has taken some remedial measures to control lifestyle diseases by including yoga in the daily routine of jawans and officers.

The force has also ordered for a change in the dietary habits and batted for regular medical examination of troops, he said.

“While the care for physical health is given due emphasis, the same emphasis for mental health of personnel has remained neglected,” Sharma said.

The BSF DG said the force was also trying to address issues like jawan suicides and fratricides once the “medical staff of the paramilitary become capable enough to diagnose the symptoms and elicit the signs of such illness”.

Data released last year, had revealed that only 25 of total 774 deaths of BSF personnel between January 2015 and September 2016 were battle casualties.

It had showed that while a total of 25 personnel were killed in action, 316 died due to a variety of diseases and illnesses and 117 suffered fatal cardiac arrest.

Paramilitary forces have begun undertaking new measures to keep a check on such issues, especially disease-related deaths in their respective forces.

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