World Suicide Prevention Day


Every day about 15 people commit suicide in Poland. Data from the Police Headquarters show that in the first five months of this year there were almost 5.7 thousand suicide attempts (women - almost 1.7 thousand, men - almost 4 thousand). This is more than in the corresponding period last year. - 4.8 thousand (women - 1.3 thousand, men - 3.5 thousand). This year's result is also higher than the one observed two years ago in the same period - 4.9 thousand (women - 1.3 thousand, men - 3.6 thousand). Unfortunately, the number of suicides among children is growing. 

Annually in Poland twice as many people die as a result of suicides than in car accidents. World Suicide Prevention Day is celebrated on September 10. The initiative aims to increase public awareness about the suicide phenomenon. About its scale, psychological and sociological causes speaks dr Aleksandra Szulman-Wardal, from the Department of Clinical and Health Psychology of the Institute of Psychology, Faculty of Social Sciences, University of Gdańsk, the Head of the Psychological Laboratory with a Team of Psychologists, Speech Therapists, Psychotherapists and Occupational Therapists and the Coordinator of Community Psychological and Psychotherapeutic Centres in the Specialist Hospital in Kościerzyna. 

- The statistics of suicides are increasing from year to year. What is the reason for that? 

Indeed it is a problem that is growing like a snowball: Data of the Police Headquarters show that in the first five months of this year there were almost 5.7 thousand suicide attempts (women - almost 1.7 thousand, men - less than 4 thousand). This is more than in the same period last year and two years ago. Please note the significant gender disproportion. Men, the stereotypically 'strong sex', unfortunately, fare worse in emotional matters. The cause of suicidal problems is multidimensional and multidirectional. Unfortunately, the increase in suicides is certainly a post-pandemic effect. However, the problem of bargaining with one's own life was also present earlier. Most often it is a result of an ongoing disease process (depression is the leading one here, but other mental disorders may have a similar effect), or a reactive process to a sudden and unexpected life event, which breaks down the previous lifeline and the person sees no possibility of coping with the problem. 

- What does psychological support for people with suicidal thoughts look like in our country? 

Perhaps I will first outline the possibilities that the national potentate gives us: The National Health Fund, which is the monopoly for medical interventions. The NFZ provides almost unlimited psychiatric assistance. There are no referrals to psychiatric specialists. The situation is worse with psychologists and psychotherapists, where referrals from a general practitioner, psychiatrist or other competent person are necessary. 

However, the reality is not so rosy, because the possibilities for intervention are limited by the number of specialists working in this field in medical institutions. While there are enough psychiatrists for adults in the Pomeranian Voivodeship, there are only 17 psychiatrists for children and adolescents! There are many more psychologists and psychotherapists, but the vast majority of them work in private practices (because a permanent job is very unsatisfactory for this professional group). This distribution of psychologists and psychotherapists, despite their physical availability for patients - is not always consistent with their economic possibilities. 

- Why do people make the decision to commit suicide? What are the most common causes? 

As I mentioned earlier, the cause is not homogeneous. It is a complex phenomenon, on which many factors may overlap: illness in the psychological and physical aspect, resulting from personality dysfunctions, resulting from (various) problems in the nearest and further environment, or resulting from the reactivity of experienced problems. 

And most often they are not flat - one-dimensional, but interconnected. Each patient is a separate story and a tangle of many life threads leading finally to a catastrophe, which is suicide. 

- What can we as a society/ individual do, can we help these suffering people in some way? 

My dream, not only as a practitioner but also as an academic, is to harness the psychological potential that we release from the walls of our (and not only) University every year. I would like these young professionals to participate in the process of psycho-education of the whole society from the kindergarten level, in the aspect of how to deal with emotions, problems, etc. Preventive work is cheaper than treatment. 

The second thing is the need for a system solution at the level of the National Health Fund - for about three years now (for the time being, unfortunately, ineptly) there has been a process of improving the quality of psychological and psychotherapeutic care for children, young people and adults. Experimental Mental Health Centres and brand new Community Psychological and Psychotherapeutic Centres for Children and Adolescents have been established. However, I fear that the CZP, as an experimental creation, may come to an end, because in the cases of the activities mentioned there may, unfortunately, be no funding for them. In other words, once again, the problem of assistance comes down to the budget. 



As psychologists emphasise, in order to prevent death by suicide it is important to learn how to recognise the signals displayed by people at risk of suicide and how to talk to people in crisis. Research confirms that a good conversation is an effective defence factor. 

A person at risk of suicide may, for example: talk about suicidal intentions, withdraw from social contacts, lose interest in work, school, hobbies, etc., undertake risky activities, show interest in death and dying, stop caring about their appearance, have problems with eating and sleeping, use alcohol and drugs more often. 

In addition to psychiatric and psychological help, it is advisable to seek help at support institutions such as the Crisis Intervention Centre, the Mental Health Clinic, the telephone helpline 800-70-22-22, or 1161-23. 

Information portals and campaigns related to suicidal issues: 

EMW / Press Office UG