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Suicidal Behavior

The second leading cause of death for 15-44 year olds.

A worrying epidemic

The manifestation of an intolerable psychological suffering, suicide is the second cause of death for 15/44 year olds and constitutes a major public health issue in France.
In France, a death by suicide occurs every 40 minutes and a suicide attempt every 4 minutes. Thus, each year in France, nearly 11,000 people die by suicide and 200,000 who try to commit suicide.
The French situation is particularly worrying: our country is above the European average and ranks 7th out of the 27 countries of the Old Continent.
More alarming: these figures do not decrease or very slowly.

Tackling misconceptions

Misconceptions and prejudices often accompany the perception of suicidal behaviour by the general public and the media (act of self-determination or free will). 
Suicides or attempted suicide are the results of extreme psychological suffering, considered unbearable by the people who are victims. Knowing the mechanisms driving to a suicidal act is essential to the implementation of prevention strategies.
Again, research has a major role to play and has already provided some encouraging initial responses.
Research has shown that we are not all equal when it comes to suicide risk: some people are more vulnerable than others.

Suicide - key figures

Suicide is responsible for 150,000 deaths each year in 38 regions of Europe, according to the WHO; among which 11,500 in France.
The prevalence in our country is therefore around 20 per 10,000 inhabitants, a relatively high rate compared to other western countries.
Suicide attempts are fifteen times more frequent than deaths by suicide, their number being between 150,000 and 200,000 per year. While they concern two to three women for a man, we observe an inverse proportion for suicide.

Suicide: the main risk factors

Some people are more vulnerable than others to the risk of suicide.

Research has notably shown that almost 90% of people who attempt their lives suffer from psychiatric disorders and that the history of attempted suicide is associated with an increased risk of recidivism.

What do we know today about vulnerability to suicide? It constitutes a kind of predisposition or “favourable” ground which can result in taking action under the effect of significant stress (loss of job, family or marital problems …).

It is said to be linked to the combination of genetic and environmental factors.

Several genes linked to suicidal behaviour have already been identified.

Research has also demonstrated the involvement of various environmental factors, including childhood abuse situations, sleep disturbances, the presence of post-traumatic stress disorder, etc.

How to prevent suicide?

Despite many prejudices and the fear of suicide, it now seems possible to prevent it. Identifying the suicidal crisis and evaluating its dangerousness makes therapeutic intervention possible and makes it possible to avoid the passage to the suicidal act. This requires a re-examination of preconceived ideas, information for all and the training of professionals.

The set of supports aimed at preventing suicide has 4 distinct elements:

  • health promotion: anything that non-specifically responds to the needs of individuals in terms of physical, mental and social well-being

  • suicide prevention: all individual and collective actions that act on the main determinants of suicide, including the identification of people at risk, the diagnosis and treatment of mental disorders likely to create major suffering, as well as all general measures that limit access to the means of suicide

  • intervention in the event of a suicidal crisis: comprising the appropriate actions at each stage of the crisis: the ideation phase, the phase where suicide becomes an intention, and the programming phase of the suicidal act;

  • postvention following a suicide: all the actions for the care of people who witnessed the scene, provided help, those who had established a bond of attachment with this person (families, friends, professionals, volunteers) , and to limit the phenomenon of contagion and imitation by suicide with vulnerable people. This postvention may include the causal analysis of suicides in order to encourage feedback to improve prevention. Cannabis, which puts people at risk of suicide, worsens the prognosis of psychotic disorders and leads to anxiety and depressive disorders, should therefore no longer be considered. as a harmless product as some have suggested, to argue its decriminalization.

For each of the four components, there is a set of knowledge and skills that health professionals must master.