Until recently, the topic of suicidal behavior in young people was too controversial for many. Everyone is talking about this today. I appeal to leave this topic to those who know about it: says Dr. Halszka Witkowska, suicidologist, originator and coordinator of the website “Life is worth talking about” and an expert of the Office for the Prevention of Suicidal Behavior at the Institute of Psychiatry and Neurology in Warsaw.
Krystyna Romanowska, “Wprost”: Let’s get the facts straight. At the beginning of the week, the Grow Space Foundation alerted the public about “the most crisis year” and “a sharp increase in suicide attempts and suicides among children and adolescents.” The narrative was picked up by, among others, Szymon Hołownia and other politicians. But suicidology specialists do not confirm these alarming data, and in addition they say something completely different. So: is it falling or rising?
Dr. Halszka Witkowska: First, I will say something that I consider extremely important: suicidology is a science that requires an interdisciplinary approach, I always emphasize this, therefore it is best to work in a team of experts who have education in various fields. This is important because this approach allows you to look at the problem more holistically. However, I am glad that young people are interested in this topic and I appeal to them to consult this very sensitive data with people who are professionally involved in the epidemiology of suicides. If I hear that in the morning at a press conference of one of the foundations there is talk about 140 suicides among children and young people, the entire media picks up on it, and then journalists after a few hours hear a correction that it was 146 after all and now we have different data in the media and we don’t know , which are true, I’m upset. I emphasize that this concerns the lives of six people!
As for the data themselves: remember that the so-called “suicidal behavior” includes both suicide attempts and suicides. Last year we were dealing with 2%. increase in suicide attempts. Importantly: in 2017, 2018, 2019, 2020, the number of suicide attempts was relatively even. In 2021, we had the first serious increase of 70 percent, and in 2022 another 40 percent. The situation in 2023 allows for cautious optimism, as it shows a slowdown in the dangerous surge in suicide attempts. This is no reason to raise the alarm! Especially since we do not rely on complete data. There are also fewer suicides – 146. This is the first decline in several years in terms of deaths by suicide in this age group. It makes me happy – moderately – but happy. We do not have another big surge, and we could be afraid of it: for various reasons, including the post-pandemic deterioration of the mental state of young people, stress and other factors. Why don’t we raise the alarm about the decline in suicides, we have ten fewer than last year. Someone will say: “only ten” – and I will say: “as many as ten.” This is a visible decline.
I would like to point out that these are numbers provided by the GrowSpace Foundation, collected from provincial headquarters, not from the Police Headquarters. Final data may vary.
Were you surprised by these data?