Switzerland reports above-average suicide numbers

The World Health Organization in Geneva is behind the report, which was released for the first time in 2014. Keystone

This content was published on September 4, 2014 - 13:54 and agencies

The World Health Organization's first-ever global report on suicide prevention has found that in Switzerland, men above the age of 50 are the most vulnerable group and the suicide rate is slightly above the global average.

According to the Swiss Federal Office for Public Health – which also contributed to the WHO report – Switzerland reported 972 suicides in 2012. That figure does not include the approximately 350 cases of assisted suicide in the country in the same year.

The average suicide rate in Switzerland is 12.2 per 100,000 inhabitants, slightly above the global average of 11.4. Cases of suicide in the country are far more numerous among men than women, at 703 and 269 individuals, respectively, in 2012. The age group with the highest suicide risk is those older than 70, closely followed by the 50-69 age bracket.

Globally, more than 800,000 people die by suicide every year, according to the WHO report, and one person dies of suicide every 40 seconds.

Pesticide poisoning, hanging and firearms are among the most common methods of suicide around the world. Evidence from Australia, Canada, Japan, New Zealand, the United States as well as a number of European countries reveals that limiting access to these means can help prevent people dying by suicide.

Another key to reducing deaths by suicide is a commitment by national governments to the establishment and implementation of a coordinated plan of action, the WHO report found. Currently, only 28 countries are known to have national suicide prevention strategies.

In Switzerland, the federal government and the cantons are developing an action plan for suicide prevention as a part of the National Health Policy Dialogue. The plan is expected to be ready in early 2016 and will target issues such as mental illness, assisted suicide organised by hospitals and medical practices, risk of access to lethal means to end life, loneliness, and need for better statistics and research. The specific needs of certain target groups, such as the young or the elderly, will also be taken into account.

The inaugural report by the WHO was published a week ahead of World Suicide Prevention Day, observed on September 10 every year. 

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