Algarve congress reveals country’s suicide figures

PORTUGAL HAS one of the lowest suicide rates in Europe, according to the president of the Sociedade Portuguesa de Suicidologia (SPS), Bessa Peixoto, who was speaking at the 12th Algarve Congress on Mental Health, recently held at the Tivoli Hotel in Carvoeiro. The average number of suicides in Portugal each year is six per 100,000 inhabitants.

According to Peixoto, a psychiatrist, the data refers to the period between 1996 and 2000 and is very similar to the results of the rest of the Mediterranean countries, in direct contrast with those in Northern, Central and Eastern Europe, which demonstrate higher numbers.

According to the SPS president, in continental Europe, the suicide rate is lower in the south than in the north, while in Portugal, the opposite is true, with more suicides registered in the southern regions. The phenomenon could be explained by the solitude and desertification existing in some parts of southern Portugal and perhaps the strong religiousness of the north, which may act as a “protective factor”, claimed Peixoto.

Despite the fact that more women attempt to take their own lives, it is men who more frequently succeed, with the male suicide rate triple that of the female – an average of 9.4 per 100,000 inhabitants against 2.8 in women.

It was also stated that there are more elderly people in Portugal who commit suicide. “It is difficult to point to the specific reasons because there is a whole range of factors involved,” said the psychiatrist. However, she highlighted the fact that psychiatric illness and depressive state could lead to people taking their own lives.

According to Peixoto, the suicide rate in Portugal remains stable but the aim is to encourage research in order to bring about greater prevention.