Swiss step up suicide prevention efforts

Suicide prevention nets have been installed behind the cathedral in the Swiss capital, Bern

Switzerland is marking World Suicide Prevention Day on Friday with a new campaign aimed at young people.

This content was published on September 10, 2004 - 08:49

Worldwide, suicide comes second only to road accidents as the main cause of death among 15- to 35-year-olds.

Statistics show that more and more youngsters are killing themselves. In Switzerland, 100 young people take their own life every year – one every three days.

Teacher-training institutions have responded to the rise in juvenile suicide by launching a campaign to raise teachers’ awareness of the problem.

They are being encouraged to discuss the issue more with their students, and a new book and CD are being produced to hammer home the message that suicide is not the answer.

“We want to encourage and help teachers to contribute towards suicide prevention,” said project leader Walter Mahler.

Warning signs

Teachers are to be offered the chance to attend a conference where they will learn more about how to deal with children with psychiatric problems.

Swiss television is supporting the campaign and has enlisted hip-hop artist Rapper Bligg to produce a track and video with a strong anti-suicide message.

The campaign was announced as the World Health Organization issued new figures showing that nearly one million people commit suicide every year, more than the number murdered or killed in war.

The WHO described suicide as “a major public health problem”, accounting for 1.5 per cent of the total cost of disease to world society.

It said the heavy toll could be reduced with greater public awareness and more political commitment.

Unfulfilled expectations

The International Association for Suicide Prevention (IASP) said the rise in youth suicide could be partly explained by ease of access to harmful substances and weapons.

It added that the growing divide between society’s expectations and actual employment possibilities led many people to despair.

“The consumer society feeds the aspirations of young people, but then they find they cannot achieve all that they want,” said IASP president Lars Mehlum.

Mehlum said it was essential to convey the message that suicide was avoidable.

He said there had to be a greater awareness of the warning signs and more publicity about the support networks available to those contemplating taking their own life.

Mehlum added that early identification and treatment of psychiatric problems was also crucial to suicide prevention.

Switzerland has a high rate of suicide compared with other countries. According to the Federal Statistics Office, 1,378 people killed themselves in 2000.

But the figure has been falling in recent years. In 1980 there were 1,621 suicides in the country.

swissinfo with agencies

Key facts

According to the WHO, almost one million people worldwide kill themselves each year.
In Switzerland, 1,378 people committed suicide in 2000.
The number of 15- to 35-year-olds who take their own life is on the rise.
In Switzerland, 100 young people kill themselves every year.

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