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High suicide rate prompts government action

Suicide in Switzerland claims twice as many lives as road accidents Keystone

One person in ten in Switzerland takes their own life or has made at least one suicide attempt, according to a study published on Wednesday.

This content was published on May 25, 2005 - 16:42

The figure of between 1,300 and 1,400 suicides a year – or four every day - is above the international average and the government says it wants to step up prevention measures.

One out of two people admits to having had suicidal thoughts, the Federal Health Office study finds.

The government says that the scale of self-inflicted death has reached such an extent that it concerns society as a whole and is a public health problem.

It has now asked the Federal Health Office to integrate measures to prevent suicide into existing federal programmes.

One of the authors of the study, the health office’s Salome von Greyerz, told swissinfo there was no easy way to explain why the suicide rate was higher in Switzerland than the international average.

No one reason

"But it is a phenomenon in all western industrialised countries. Because the decision to commit suicide is dependent in most cases on many factors, there is no one reason."

"In 90 per cent of suicides, though, mental sickness plays a role," she said.

Everyone is confronted at least once in their life with suicide, whether it is within the family, among friends, at school or in professional life, the study finds.

The report, entitled Suicide and Prevention of Suicide in Switzerland, was written after a parliamentary request from a member of parliament in June 2002.

It finds that the number of deaths from suicide in Switzerland every year is double that caused by road accidents.

In an international comparison, Switzerland comes after Russia, Hungary, Slovenia, Finland and Croatia and is on a par with Austria, Belgium and France.

Prevalent cause

After a decline in the number of deaths from road accidents and Aids, suicide is now the main cause of death among men aged between 15 and 44, the report finds.

It comments that the available preventive measures are insufficient and are restricted to just a few regional centres, mainly in western Switzerland.

It is therefore essential to strengthen preventive measures to reduce the number of suicides and suicide attempts, it adds.

"We must aim to strengthen the psychological health of the whole population," commented von Greyerz.

She added there should be particular emphasis on training those involved with young people to recognise and react when they suffer a crisis.

swissinfo with agencies

In brief

Suicide accounts for between one and two per cent of deaths in Switzerland. About 1,000 men and 400 women end their lives every year.

With four deaths per day, the suicide rate is 19.1 per 100,000 inhabitants. The figure is above the international average and puts Switzerland behind Russia, Hungary, Slovenia, Finland and Croatia.

Suicide kills twice as many people as road deaths, which have declined over the years. Suicide is the main cause of death among men aged 15-44.

One Swiss in ten commits suicide or attempts suicide at least once, and one in two admits having suicidal thoughts.

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