On February 5, 2019 to mark the national day dedicated to preventing suicide, the French public health agency published several well-documented articles on suicide and attempted suicides in France over the past several years.

High suicide rate in France

According to the Center of Epidemiology statistics investigating medical causes of death, in 2015 there were 8.948 deaths by suicide in the 13 metropolitan regions in France.

Although generally thought to be underestimated by approximately 10%, it is nevertheless lower than in 20001.

The national average of deaths by suicide is 15.8 per 100,000 inhabitants. This figure covers large disparities, particularly by region. In the North-West, 4 regions are largely above it, although the causes are difficult to determine: Brittany (24.7), the Pays-de-la-Loire (21.3), Hauts-de-France (20.7) and Normandy (19.5). However, the Ile-de-France region ranks 7.6 with the lowest rate and half the national average.

By examining the death certificates between 2000 and 2014, suicides were found to account for 1.9% of all deaths, with a majority being men (74%). Mental disorders represented 40% of suicides, with depression accounting for the vast majority: 38% for women and 28% for men. Compared to other individuals, suicide was cited 41 times more for these individuals, compared to other causes of death.Previously other studies have also shown significant disparities according to age, occupation, family environment, etc.

Analyzing suicide attempts

In 2017, the French Public Health Barometer interviewed 25,319 people aged 18 to 75 regarding any suicidal thoughts over the past 12 months, as well as any attempted suicides over the course of their lives including the preceding 12 months.

The main results are:

  • 2% of those surveyed had attempted suicide at some point in their lifetime.
  • 7% reported having suicidal thoughts in the previous 12 months. The factor most frequently cited for considering suicide was having experienced a depressive episode during that period.
  • The factors most associated with suicidal behavior were: being female, having financial difficulties, being single, divorced or widowed, experiencing professional inactivity or traumatic events (domestic problems, sexual violence …)
  • The majority of adults reporting suicide attempts were 15 – 19 years old at the time; for women 30% occurred at that age and for men 19.5%.
  • There are more suicide attempts among women (9.9% say they have made attempts) compared to (4.4%). Yet more men die from suicide, since they employ more lethal means (firearms, hanging).

 

Urgent necessity for improving suicide prevention

In the weekly Epidemiological Bulletin, Pierre Thomas, Psychiatry Professor in Lille, emphasizes the national tragedy of suicide deaths in his editorial: “Every suicide is a disaster, causing so much pain and injury to loved ones, and it can be one of the most distressing events that health professionals confront. On average, suicide is considered to leave 7 loved ones grieving and affects over 20 people. Yet it has been shown that the risk of suicide is significantly increased in the people surrounding a suicidal person (family, classmates, co-workers, etc.) “.

In conclusion, the authors of the 2017 barometer emphasize that pursuing prevention policies should be a priority: “Our results confirm the interest of launching a suicide prevention policy focused on high-risk individuals and their families, to provide help before suicidal crisis situations occur, to identify and manage situations involving psychological suffering early on. They also advocate multidisciplinary care (health, social, medico-social), especially for vulnerable people.

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1 According to the National Suicide Observatory’s third report published in February 2018, there were 8,885 deaths by suicide in 2014, officially recorded in metropolitan France, i.e. an average of 1per hour; down by a fourth (- 26%) compared to 2003.