Mental Health in the Military: A Comparative Analysis of the IDF and United States Military


Officials say that military veterans make up 16 percent of homeless adults in the United States. While this may be a surprise for some, it is no secret that the US Department of Defense and Veterans Affairs has proved to be inadequate in the past when it comes to providing post-service mental health assistance. Recent CNN reports show that every day, approximately 22 veterans take their own lives in the US due to untreated cases of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).

Military service in the US is voluntary—one must be 18 years old to enlist. Unlike the US military and other armed forces in the world, The Israel Defense Forces require mandatory conscription of both men and women.

The military draft process in Israel is quite simple. First, the Army calls upon a potential soldier via a letter referred to as Tzav Rishon, or “First Calling”. The letter notifies the young man or woman where they should report for examining the next day. After a thorough physical and mental examination the drafting process is over and the soldier begins training for what will become an extensive two to three year service to their country.

Due to the substantial amount of young adults currently serving in Israel’s military, I was curious to know about their post-service policies and benefits. Are they similar to the US? Is mental health a subject that is comprehensively ingrained in their society?

According to Israeli National News, IDF soldiers are far less likely to develop PTSD, or “combat shock” as it is known in Israel, for multiple reasons. The first being that Israeli soldiers serve shorter terms in active combat compared to their international counterparts. Also the IDF has created a unit specifically for treatment of post-combat psychological issues. Often times, PTSD cases are diagnosed and treated while the soldier is still on duty through a new program called Magen developed by the IDF’s Mental Health Department.

Recent studies also show that less than five percent of active duty and post duty veteran’s suffer from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder whereas thirty percent of US soldiers suffer from the same ailments, proving that Israel’s proactive measures to prevent Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and other war-induced psychological problems are steps of action that the international community should seek to emulate.

It seems a bit ironic that a country with a military system similar to the military draft employed in the United States during the 1940s has such a progressive outlook on mental illness and treatment. Nonetheless, the whole concept of mandatory conscription is still controversial. Does the fact that Israel is making forward investments in their veteran care negate their radical military enlistment policies? Thoughts and opinions on the matter would be greatly appreciated! \



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