ARCTIC HEALTH SERIES: Finland ‘downplays’ suicide figures says expert

Image YLE.The chairman of the Finnish Central Association for Mental Health, Pekka Sauri, believes that Finland’s world-leading suicide rate has been downplayed. He also demands a suicide prevention programme, which would learn from the good experiences of the 1990s.

Last week the National Institute for Health and Welfare (THL) poured cold water on research published in the Lancet that argued suicide was on the rise in Finland because of the financial crisis.

Three people kill themselves in Finland each day. The figures have not changed much in the last ten years. According to Sauri there is no reason for self-satisfaction in Finland, even though the number of suicides has reduced from a peak of 1,500 in 1990 down to around a thousand annually. Sauri says that most of this reduction took place largely in the early 1990s, and attributes much of the fall to a suicide prevention programme that ended in 1996.

Sauri would improve the earlier programme by increasing expertise among patient and bereaved organisations, police, social workers and media. He says that the programme should improve support for those suffering from the poor economic situation and their relatives.

The British medical journal The Lancet said last week that the financial crisis of 2008 caused a rise in suicide in Finland. The THL observed that the study made too direct a link between the suicide figures and the financial crisis.

THL Professor Jouko Lönnqvist believes that suicide is affected by many factors, of which the financial crisis is just one hypothesis. He points out that suicide figures should be observed over a long period, and that the number of suicides continued to fall since the 1990s and that that decline has now stopped. He observes that the situation raises questions, and that the causes should be more closely investigated.

For more stories from the Eye on the Arctic, 2011 ARCTIC HEALTH SERIES, click here.

Originally posted July 15, 2011

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