New immigrants, young, elderly at highest risk for suicide

New Health Ministry report finds suicide rate among youngsters higher in Israel than in most European countries.

suicide 88 (photo credit: )
suicide 88
(photo credit: )
Over a quarter of the more than 400 annual suicides in Israel are committed by new immigrants from the former Soviet Union and Ethiopia, most of whom are under 24, according to a new report issued for publication Tuesday by the Health Ministry. Although the report found that the general suicide rate here was significantly lower than that of most European countries (second-lowest for women and fifth for men), it concluded that the suicide rate among young Israelis was higher and that the per capita rate had not increased over the past decade. According to the report, suicides constituted 1 percent of deaths among people aged 15 and up. They were the second most common cause of death in teenage boys and young adult men under 24 (after accidents) and the third most common among girls and women in that age group. The report also said that only 1% of the women and 11% of the men between ages 15 and 24 who tried to take their own lives were successful in doing so. Another high-risk age group was elderly people over 65, and especially those over 75. In the under-64 age bracket, Greece, Italy and Spain had the lowest suicide rates of the 21 countries surveyed, followed by Israel in fourth place. Poland, Hungary, Ukraine and Russia suffered the highest incidence. Women were found to be much less likely to commit suicide. In 2004, the latest year covered by the report, 320 men killed themselves, compared to only 91 women. Suicide is much more common among Jews than Arabs; the Jewish suicide rate among Jews is five times higher than the Arab rate. The report found that married men and women were significantly less likely to kill themselves than singles and the divorced, and also that residents of Hadera, Beersheba, Ramle, Haifa and Tel Aviv were at much higher risk than those of Jerusalem, Acre and the Sharon region. The rate in Tel Aviv-Jaffa was 14.3 per 100,000 residents compared to 4.9 in Jerusalem and 5.0 in Bnei Brak. Suicide is most common in the months of May, July, October, September, January and December. Hanging and choking were cited as the most common suicide methods among both men and women (38% and 31% respectively), compared to weapons (25% and 7%), jumping from high places (12% and 24%), poison (5% and 11%) and other means. The ministry said it was promoting national programs to prevent children and teenagers from attempting suicide, in cooperation with the Joint American Distribution Committee and various ministries. These efforts include providing information on depression and anxiety as well as training doctors, psychologists, educators and others to spot the early warning signs.