Sixteen Israeli Soldiers Committed Suicide in 2017, Down 50 Percent From Previous Decade

The army states that one of the reasons for the decline in suicides in recent years is that soldiers’ access to weapons has been restricted

Some 16 soldiers committed suicide in the Israel Defense Forces in 2017, a slight increase from the previous three years. All told, there has been a dramatic decline in IDF suicides over the past decade.

Last year’s suicides included 13 soldiers, two officers and one reservist.

“The figures show a dramatic decline compared to the previous decade, a drop of more than 50 percent,” said Col. Merav Kirshner, who heads the manpower planning and administration division in IDF’s personnel department. “Most of the suicides are soldiers in their first year of compulsory service — not during initial enlistment and preparation, but later during the first year of service.”

The IDF says last year’s cases don’t fall into clear categories, as was the case in the past.

“In the past there were more instances among new immigrants, but now the cases aren’t tied to specific population groups,” said Kirshner.

Most of the the cases involed IDF-issued weapons. The army states that one of the reasons for the declining in suicides in recent years is that soldiers’ access to weapons has been restricted.

“Nowadays we can say that in most cases there were warnings — someone who heard or saw something that revealed the soldier’s intent — and we encourage [soldiers] to talk and report this. It’s not tattling, it’s help,” said Kirshner.

The IDF claims that it has fewer instances of suicides among teens than there are for the population as a whole, and also compared to teens of comparable age who were not drafted. “The suicide rate among teens in the IDF is low compared to every parallel age group in Israel and in Europe. Other armies have suicide rates double those in the IDF, and sometimes even higher. We can say that in this sense the army is the safest place for teens,” said Kirshner.

In 2017, a total of 55 soldiers died. This includes 12 soldiers killed in traffic accidents, a significant increase over previous years. In both 2016 and 2015, seven soldiers were killed in road accidents. Last year, two soldiers were killed in accidents during operational activity, one soldier was killed in an aerial accident, two in a training accident and another six were killed in other accidents. Nine soldiers died due to illness, and five soldiers were killed in terror attacks.