Do more to help soldiers in their mental health

The transition from civilian life to one in the army during national service can be a distressing time for young men, and I laud the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) for the steps it takes to care for its soldiers.

However, more can be done. There are two areas in particular which concern me.

First, it is important for superiors to speak to soldiers about what they are being trained to do - kill the enemy. In the event of a war, will our soldiers pull the trigger without thinking twice if they see a human being in their weapons' crosshairs instead of a lifeless target?

Hesitation could be the difference between life and death.

The second is about increasing servicemen's understanding of the nature of mental illness.

From my experience, those who report to the medical officers regarding adjustment-related disorders or depression are sometimes accused of feigning illness.

The symptoms of mental illness may not manifest physically, but can be just as debilitating.

Increasing understanding among soldiers would go some way towards the continued support of their brothers-in-arms who suffer from mental illness.

As we celebrate 50 years of national service, let us do more to realise this core value of the SAF - care for soldiers.

John Lim Le Sheng

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 01, 2017, with the headline 'Do more to help soldiers in their mental health'. Print Edition | Subscribe