Suicide attempts in Flanders fall by a quarter since 2000

The number of suicide attempts in Flanders has fallen by a quarter since 2000, Hilde Crevits, Flemish minister of Welfare and Public Health, reported in a press release on Wednesday. She said prevention and follow-up care remain crucial.

Between 2000 and 2021, there was a decrease in suicides of approximately one-third, and a decrease of 25 per cent in attempts in the same period. The 2022 annual report on suicide attempts shows that numbers fell a further 4.3 per cent between 2020 and 2022.

Emergency admission services in Flemish hospitals reported an estimated 8,943 suicide attempts in 2022, or 25 per day. 60 per cent of attempts were made by women and 40 per cent by men.

"The new data gives us a good insight into who is making attempts and what problems these people are facing," said Crevits, "This is scientific information that is important for further targeted preventive policy.”

"We must be careful about making causal connections, but it is encouraging to see these declining figures"

Of people who attempted to take their own life in 2022, half reported still having suicidal thoughts. The Flemish Suicide Prevention Action Plan (VLESP) indicates that personalised follow-up care is vital.

“We have known for a long time that a suicide attempt is one of the most important risk factors for suicide," said Professor Gwendolyn Portzky, director of VLESP and the Unit for Suicide Research at Ghent University. "Monitoring and following up on the figures of suicide attempts is important to give us a permanent overview of the extent of the issue."

VLESP hopes to see a further decrease in suicides of 10 per cent by 2030 compared to 2020 through research and registration of suicide attempts.

Figures show that most of those who attempted suicide were aged 15 to 24. In men, the age group is higher, at 30 to 34. Of those under the age of 18 who have attempted suicide, 73 per cent are girls. Eight in 10 people had been in contact with psychiatric emergency services and had been treated in a residential or outpatient setting. More than half had a history of suicidal behaviour.

Person-based rate evolution of suicide attempts per 100,000 inhabitants in Flanders, by gender, 1999-2022 © Universiteit Gent
Person-based rate evolution of suicide attempts per 100,000 inhabitants in Flanders, by gender, 1999-2022 © Universiteit Gent

Crevits hopes that implementing the Guidelines for the Care and Evaluation of Suicidality will provide insight into appropriate care. The guidelines have been used in hospitals since 2022 for initial care and evaluation after a suicide attempt.

"It is promising that the longer-term evolution shows a downward trend in suicide attempts," said Portzky. "This is similar to the declining rates of suicide that have been observed. We must be careful about making causal connections, but it is encouraging to see these declining figures and shows that we must continue to focus hard on prevention."

Anyone affected by suicidal thoughts can contact the Suicide Hotline on the free number 1813 or via the 1813 website.


#FlandersNewsService | © SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY RM

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