Knesset committee discusses high olim suicide rate

One third of suicides in Israel committed by immigrants.

November 21, 2017 17:16
2 minute read.
Woman weeping.

Woman weeping, crying, tear drop 521. (photo credit: REUTERS)


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The Knesset Immigration and Absorption committee discussed on Tuesday how to battle the high rate of suicide among immigrants to Israel, a population which constitutes one-third of suicides in the country.

This statistic comes from a report written by the Health Ministry in 2016, which covers data from the past decade.

The number is alarmingly high when bearing in mind that immigrants make up just 20% of the population. Certain groups of immigrants have particularly high rates of suicide.

Between 2000 and 2013, some 1,658 immigrants committed suicide. Of those, a quarter arrived from the former Soviet Union in the 1990s, and from 3% to 8% came from Ethiopia in the 1980s.

Committee chairman MK Avraham Neguise (Likud) emphasized that these populations are at higher risk of suicide due to the lack of a supportive environment, difficulties in acclimatization and livelihood. He called on citizens to “be attentive and supportive to the immigrants they know, and sometimes a smile and a good word can make the difference.”

He also noted that one of the main issues was that many immigrants do not know who to turn to for help during a crisis.

According to the National Council for the Prevention of Suicide, which established a special committee to prevent suicide among immigrants, the Welfare Ministry lacks a cross-sectional database of immigrants and strategies to prevent suicide among them. A representative of the council also said that the Health Ministry also lacks data on immigrants in frameworks of mental health services, clinics, psychological services, psychiatric hospitals and general hospitals.

The initiator of the discussion, Yakov Margi (Shas), called for special attention to be paid to young immigrants and to ensure that the government offices provide a focused response.

Mira Keidar, director of the Welfare and Human Resources Department of the Jewish Agency, mentioned a twoyear research project which examined government ministries’ response to the issue, and made clear that even in bodies that deal with suicide prevention, there is usually no focus on the immigrant population, no focus on working with different cultures or in different languages.

Liami Lawrence, co-founder of Keep Olim in Israel, said his organization intends to begin operating subsidized low-cost mental health counseling services in various languages next year.

MK Ksenia Svetlova (Zionist Union) noted that the rate of suicide among immigrants from the former Soviet Union is double that of the general population, according to a report by NGO Path to Life.

She called on the government to budget and operate a program to “prevent the next suicide.”

The state must not “ignore the need to take care of immigrants, also after they have arrived – to keep them in Israel, but also to keep them alive,” she said.

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