How Switzerland wants to prevent 300 suicides a year

Every day, two or three people in Switzerland commit suicide, with men over 75 accounting for the highest rate. Alessandro della Valle / Keystone

Switzerland has many resources for suicide prevention, but until now there has been little coordination between them. To mark World Suicide Prevention Day, the government has introduced an online tool to bring the information together. 

Marie Vuilleumier

With the new research platform – launched on Monday, World Suicide Prevention Day – the federal health office wants to make it easier for people to find advice, information and self-help groups related to suicide prevention. The online tool is accessible both to professionals and the general public, and it covers all regions of Switzerland. 

Every day, two or three people in Switzerland commit suicide, with men over 75 accounting for the highest rate, according to the Federal Office of Public Health (FOPH). 

“Most suicidal people do not want to die. Crises are mostly temporary and can affect anyone,” the FOPH reports, noting that suicide is often attempted in a state of mental stress. 

In 2016, the Swiss government launched a suicide prevention action plan with ten measures, including raising public awareness, providing fast and easily accessible help, and spreading knowledge about best practices in Switzerland and abroad. 

The goal is to reduce the number of non-assisted suicides in Switzerland by 25% by 2030 – in other words, to prevent about 300 suicides per year. 

Suicide prevention groups have welcomed the launch of the platform. 

“New tools are always interesting because they give us the chance talk about suicide prevention and to be more efficient,” says Béatrice Manceau of ProConseils, which is involved in a project to help Swiss farmers by improving their social situation (statistics indicate that farmers are especially at risk of suicide). 

“Broader coordination is a good thing for sharing knowledge, but first and foremost, it’s important to act locally,” Manceau adds. 

For the Swiss Samaritans, every form of exchange is welcome. “But the platform needs to be improved so that the research works well,” says Franco Baumgartner, the group’s general secretary. 

He cites the lack of cooperation between the various Swiss groups involved in suicide prevention. “The government has been tasked with strengthening the exchange between actors, but there is still a lack of financial means to achieve this goal,” Baumgartner told swissinfo.ch. 

Lighting candles

“Working together to prevent suicide” is the motto of this year’s World Suicide Prevention Day

The International Association for Suicide Prevention invites everyone to take a few minutes to talk to friends and relatives, listen to them and identify any potential problems. 

People are also encouraged to place a candle in a window on Monday at 8pm to show their support for suicide prevention efforts.

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