Suicide of young people, putting an end to received ideas

No, talking about suicide to a young person in distress will not encourage him to take action. “On the contrary, clearly discussing the problem with him can relieve him and push him to express his discomfort.” Exit, therefore, the specter of contagion often brandished to censor the theme.

No, either, the suicide of a young person is not a cold, resolute choice, impossible to counter. First, the individual concerned wants to escape immense suffering more than to actually die. Above all, he is ambivalent to the end and the fatal gesture can be suspended at any time.

Don’t be afraid of awkwardness

Therefore, one should not, out of modesty, fear of awkwardness or feeling of powerlessness, leave the person to himself. Never. It is necessary to make her speak, to move her, to occupy her with an activity (walking, cooking) allowing her to feel surrounded if she does not wish to speak, because the feeling of being alone in the world “with an unbearable weight inside” is often the ultimate trigger.

Read also: “Stromae de-stigmatizes suicidal thoughts”

These are the unambiguous instructions that Stop Suicide transmitted last Wednesday through We, an interactive show and a debate organized at the Salons, in Geneva. The Geneva association, active in prevention for twenty-two years, began by giving the latest figures on the issue and they are not reassuring.

Children under 15 also affected

While the general suicide rate fell in Switzerland in 2020 (972 suicides compared to 1,018 in 2019), it increased among 15-29 year olds: 138 young people took their own lives that year, compared to 125 last year. from before. Above all, there were seven suicides among those under 15 (six girls, one boy) compared to two in 2019 and zero in 2018. “It is this figure which is the most worrying, especially since the harmful effects of the pandemic are expected for 2021, or even 2022”, worried Fabienne Bugnon, godmother of the association.

Therefore, let’s redouble our efforts in prevention and awareness, launched the speakers, including Christina Kitsos, Geneva administrative advisor, in charge of the Department of Social Cohesion and Solidarity. Invited to listen to the wishes of pupils aged 10 to 12 as part of Children’s Rights Day last November, the politician was struck by their requests.

A place to talk

“On the one hand, they would like to have a place of their own where they could talk to shrinks without the school or their parents knowing about it. On the other hand, they would like to find a way to display on them their emotion of the moment, so that others can see what they feel without having to express it, ”returned the magistrate.

Read again: The Stop Suicide Blog

Two unusual requests that echo the show staged by the committed theater company Anou (for “It’s up to us to play”) led by the intrepid Laure Bacchiocchi. There too, a new received idea swept away by the painful story of Mathilde and Mathieu, which is played out on stage: in 2021, going to see a shrink is still not a formality. “I’m not crazy!” exclaims Mathieu when his best friend and his sister invite him to consult, because, totally distressed, the young man confides that he no longer has the feeling of “being an actor in his life”.

The shrink, another scarecrow?

In the room, we pinch ourselves so much we have the impression that young people go to the shrink as they go to the dentist, but this is probably only true for a privileged part of the population. Moreover, the 2022 campaign of Stop Suicide is precisely devoted to “the de-stigmatization of mental health care”, because, notes the director, Raphaël Thélin, “many people still have a priori about shrinks and therapies, and this prevention has the effect of discouraging individuals in difficulty from seeking help”.

In this respect, Raphaël Thélin welcomes the fact that the show We, which shows how two mirror-image young people get out of their dark thoughts thanks to their peers (the parents are not only absent, but evoked as real balls!) was chosen by the Neuchâtel Department of Public Instruction to be offered to all secondary school students. “This systematization is very beneficial, because, beyond the financial means, we often lack access to the young people concerned. In Geneva, for example, the Stop Suicide association is solicited by the most motivated teachers, but is not an established partner of the DIP.

Young people and eco-objectivity

Small spade to which Pascal Freydier, director of the Child and Youth Health Service, present in the room, responded by indicating that the Geneva DIP was multiplying initiatives aimed at “strengthening the emotional skills of young people, who are as much protective factors”.

“Geneva is also, after Ticino, the canton of Switzerland where young people commit suicide the least”, informed Aglaé Tardin, cantonal doctor invited to the debate. She went on to observe that while covid had indeed increased the gloomy thoughts of young people, it had also allowed them to develop “their capacity for introspection and their empowerment“. “In the same register, when we say that 84% of young people in the world suffer from eco-anxiety, could we not rather say that they show eco-objectivity?” Asks the doctor, concerned about restore to this population its capacity to mobilize.

On this point: At La Plage des Six Pompes: “We are the scammed generation”

Switzerland not affected

In the ball of received ideas, this one again: Switzerland is not the country in the world where people commit suicide the most, this sad record being held by Lesotho, with 87.5 cases per 100,000 inhabitants. “With 10.4 cases, our country is within the European average which is 11.7 cases”, informs Stop Suicide. Another good news is that the suicide rate among young people, which soared in our country in the 1980s, has since been divided by three.

Also read: Dark thoughts of young people, difficulty in calling a shrink, stubborn clichés: the mental health of the Swiss under the magnifying glass

That said, with its 138 cases in 2020, this act remains the leading cause of death for 15-29 year olds. Finally, 73% of these young suicides are male, while the rate of suicide attempts responds to the inverse ratio, with approximately 75% of female attempts not carried out. An inversion due, in particular, to the difference in the methods used to kill oneself.

The right to get help

What to remember from the evening? The importance of peer support and the right to be supported. “Every child must grow up with the idea that he has the right to ask for help, that it is neither a shame nor a burden”, repeated several voices, moved and moving, from the Assembly.


Need help or just talk? Contact the following numbers:

– Pro Juventute (listening and advice for young people): 147

– La Main Tendue (listening and advice for adults): 143


The room We is to be seen on October 16, at 7 p.m., at UNIL, in Lausanne; November 5 and 11, at 8 p.m., at UNIGE and December 6, at HUG, in Geneva.

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