Finland sees more suicides than EU average

After decades of declining numbers of self-inflicted deaths, Finland's suicide rate increased for the second year in a row last year.

File photo. Image: Ismo Pekkarinen / AOP

Last year 824 people committed suicide in Finland - or around 100 more self-inflicted deaths than there were in 2015, according to Statistics Finland.

However, the suicide rate of young adults has slightly declined over the past decade. In 2017 some 107 people under the age of 25 committed suicide. Before a couple of years ago, Finland's overall suicide rate has been steadily dropping since the early 1990s.

The head of the Association for Mental Health's (Mieli) crisis response operations, Outi Ruishalme, said Finland has begun to take the right steps towards preventing suicide.

"It is very good that Finland has finally prepared a suicide prevention strategy for 2019-2030. And now it's important to ensure the strategy is comprehensively carried out," Ruishalme said.

According to Ruishalme, the most effective ways of preventing suicide are already well known.

"Early access to counselling, improving the quality of the health care system and facilitating access to care," she said.

She said suicide rates can also be reduced by educating professionals in various fields about the issue as well as by promoting and strengthening mental health programmes. Ruishalme also said the regulation of firearms and controlled drugs were also important factors in the prevention of suicide.

Reaching out is key

The suicide rate of Finland is higher than the average of other EU countries.

Last March, Mieli opened suicide prevention centres in the cities of Helsinki and Kuopio and the organisation launched a campaign combating suicide last autumn.

The association's "How are you?" campaign, which started in the autumn, aims to help people learn to identify signs that a friend or family member may be contemplating harming themselves, or worse.

The programme encourages people to ask those they are worried about to ask them the simple question: "how are you?"

Mieli offers support and help in Finnish, Swedish, English and other languages (siirryt toiseen palveluun) for people who need assistance and support with mental health issues, are considering suicide, or know someone who may be.

Individuals can contact Mieli's SOS Crisis Centre by telephone: (09) 4135 0510.

The agency also has a dedicated crisis hotline for those who speak Arabic or English: 040 195 8202, which is open on Mondays, Tuesday, Thursdays and Fridays between the hours of 11:00 am - 3:00 pm, and on Wednesdays from 5:00 pm until 9:00 pm, according to the Mieli website.