War in Ukraine and economic crisis among factors behind rising suicide rate

After dropping for three consecutive years, the number of suicides in Czechia increased in 2022. Over 1,300 Czechs took their own life last year and the increase was most significant in younger age groups. I discussed the alarming development with Alexandr Kasal from the National Centre for Mental Health:

Alexandr Kasal | Photo: National Institute of Mental Health

“Compared to the last three years, when the numbers were mostly stable or only slightly increasing, the 2022 increase was about 6 percent. This might be a wake-up call for the Czech system of mental health care and experts in suicide prevention. It is true that if we compare it to a longer period, the numbers were higher back then. Still, it is quite alarming.”

So what are the main reasons behind the growing number of suicides here in Czechia?

“Well, as for any individual suicide death, the reasons are usually quite complex, so we don’t have a clear answer to this. However, some of the factors behind the increase in 2022 is that it is still just a few years since the Covid-19 pandemic. Also, the Russian aggression in Ukraine has definitely had an effect on the whole of society.”

Could this recent development also be connected to the ongoing economic crisis?

“It might be, because when the costs of living increase, it is another factor that can add up to the struggles that someone might already be facing. If someone struggles to get by financially, it can of course worsen the situation.”

The increase in the number of suicides was most significant in the younger age categories. Why do you think that is?

Illustrative photo: HASTYWORDS,  Pixabay,  Pixabay License

“Well, again, I don't have a clear answer to that. But the hypothesis of our team is that younger age groups, adolescent and young adults, are facing big challenges these days. They have, I would say, infinite choices in terms of what they might do, but at the same time, especially during the pandemics, these possibilities were quite limited.

“Social networks provide another risk factor since young people are the most common users of social networks. Also, the mental health care system, especially child psychiatry and child psychology, is lacking capacities, so they have to wait weeks or even months to get professional help.”

What I also found striking is that by far the most suicides, over 1000, were committed by men. Is this something that surprised you or is this a common phenomenon?

Photo: GDJ,  Pixabay,  Pixabay License

“The usual statistics are that for one suicide of a woman, there are four suicides among men, so it is not really surprising. Also, it is not something limited to Czechia only. It applies to most of the world, with a few exceptions.

“The reasons behind this might be that men are more impulsive, let's say, and when they are trying to commit suicide, they choose more lethal methods. Also, men tend to seek help less for their problems and they consume more alcohol, which increases their risk of committing suicide.”

Author: Ruth Fraňková
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