Knesset to address suicide problem

Over 400 people commit suicide in Israel every year; 26 IDF suicides in 2006.

jp.services1 (photo credit: )
(photo credit: )
When the Knesset marks an international day for the prevention of suicides Wednesday, the several hundred shekels they spend on the event will be the most money the government has spent on the issue this year, said organizations and political officials involved in suicide prevention in Israel. That is because not a single shekel of the current budget is dedicated to fighting suicides, said MK Ran Cohen (Meretz), who heads the Knesset's Lobby for Suicide Prevention. "More than 400 people commit suicide in Israel each year, that is nearly as many as people who die in traffic accidents," said Cohen."Just like we have a national network against traffic accidents, we must create a national network to prevent suicides." According to a report that will be released to the Knesset Wednesday, more than 100 people who committed suicide last year were under the age of 24 and nearly 30 of them were soldiers in the IDF. "This is a plague on our country, a huge humanitarian plague that is surrounded by silence," said Cohen. "That silence doesn't help the situation it makes it worse. It makes it so that our society does not deal with suicides because we are silent about them." For Tami, a Tel Aviv resident who asked not to use her last name, suicide seemed like the best option to stop the post-traumatic stress disorder that plagued her teenage life. In 2002, when Tami was 16-years-old, she lost a close friend in a suicide bombing at the Dolphinarium. Tami was only a few blocks away from the club when the bombing took place. Months later, she was unable to let go of the guilt that she had survived the bombing that her friend had not, and so she decided to take her own life by jumping out of the third-story window of her aunt's Tel Aviv apartment. While she broke both legs, and caused permanent damage to her lower back, she says she was "lucky to have not known more about jumping" and therefore survive the fall. "I didn't really even think of it as suicide. I mean, that word was never really in my head," said Tami. "I just felt so bad, and I felt like I didn't really want to talk to anyone. There were just my friends and nobody was talking about the intifada. There was no one else for me to talk to." Tami said she is glad that she survived the fall, since it gave her the chance to try and help others by studying to become a social worker. Her first choice, she said, would be to work in high schools, but there are currently no such positions in Israel. "I think that if there were someone to talk to there would be a lot less people thinking that suicide was the only option," said Tami."Sure, there are 400 people who successfully commit suicide, but the number of people who try and fail is in the thousands." According to Cohen, programs to stop suicides have been shown to be widely effective. When the IDF decided to take an active approach and create an awareness program about suicides, the number of people who successfully committed suicide went down from 36 in 2005, to 26 in 2006. In other countries, said Cohen, even more effective models were being created to stop suicides. The American Air Force managed to decrease suicides by 30 percent through a prolonged program, while the Norwegian army decreased suicide by 70%. On Wednesday, the Knesset's Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee will discuss suicide in the IDF, the Education Committee will talk about suicide among teenagers and the Immigration Committee will discuss suicide among new immigrants. Also, the Welfare Committee will discuss how to stop suicides in Israel in general.