Suicides Among Israeli Soldiers Drop 43 Percent in 2018

The Israeli military says it is the army with the lowest number of suicides in the world

FILE PHOTO: IDF chief Gadi Eisenkot at a memorial ceremony.
Emil Salman

Nine soldiers died in 2018 in suspected suicide attempts, according to figures released by the army on Wednesday, a 43 percent drop in comparison to previous years. In 2017 there were 16 suspected suicides, and in each of the preceding three years there were fifteen such deaths.

According to the Israel Defense Forces Manpower Directorate, none of the victims were known to the army’s mental health services or to civilian agencies. Eight of the nine victims in 2018 were men, and seven were serving their compulsory service. All of them were born in Israel, other than one who had immigrated from another country.

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The directorate attributes the reduction in the number of suicides to programs launched by the army to reduce the phenomenon. In addition, after each incident, the military police regularly opens an investigation, with a committee set up in the unit in which the suicide occurred. The investigation is completed within 30 days, after which the military advocate general updates the families of the victims. Twice a year, a committee headed by senior members of the directorate convenes, along with hospital directors, psychiatrists and other professionals, to discuss ways to prevent suicides.

According to the directorate, the IDF is the army with the lowest number of suicides. The numbers are also lower than among civilians in the same age group, whereas in Western armies the numbers are double the rates in comparison with civilians in the same age groups.

Other numbers released by the army showed that 43 soldiers were added to its roster of casualties in 2018. Eight were killed in combat missions, two in military accidents, 14 in road accidents, and 10 who died of natural causes. Among the deceased, 27 were serving in their compulsory service, seven officers were in the standing army, three were non-commissioned officers and one was on reserve duty, while the others were not on active duty. 41 soldiers were seriously injured last year. In 2017, the number of fatalities stood at 55.