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Support, not exclude, mentally ill in NS

Young men with schizophrenia need not be exempted from full-time NS, say a psychiatrist and a young woman who has struggled with schizophrenia

Published on Apr 18, 2014 6:03 AM

In 2008, the United States Army woke to an alarming discovery: Its soldiers were killing themselves at a startling rate. The suicide rate in the armed forces used to be well below that of civilians in the US population, but by 2008 the suicide rate in the army had surpassed the rate for civilians, even threatening to overtake the rate of combat deaths.

In response, the Pentagon implemented a raft of measures, including the establishment of a suicide prevention task force. There were also suicide prevention programmes in most army posts, and training in emotional resiliency to cope with the stress of deployment and combat. The Pentagon also initiated the Army Study to Assess Risk and Resilience in Service members (or Army Starrs). It was the largest study of suicide risk and resilience ever conducted among military personnel.

The US Army is also trying to change the culture of soldierly machismo that views psychological problems as indicative of personal weakness. "Getting help for emotional problems should be as natural as seeking help for a sprained ankle," said General Peter Chiarelli, the army vice-chief of staff.

Similar problems have occasionally surfaced in Singapore. In July last year, 23-year-old national serviceman, Private Ganesh Pillay Magindren of the 24th Battalion Singapore Artillery, took his own life.

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Background story


Every suicide is as different and as unique as the people themselves. And the reality is there is no one reason a person decides to commit suicide.

- General Peter Chiarelli, US army vice-chief of staff


  • Samaritans of Singapore: 1800-221-4444
  • Singapore Association for Mental Health: 1800-283-7019
  • Institute of Mental Health's Mobile Crisis Service: 6389-2222
  • Care Corner Counselling Centre (Mandarin): 1800-353-5800