A Third of All Suicides in Israel Committed by Immigrants, Report Says

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Soviet Jews arriving at Tel Aviv's Ben-Gurion International Airport.
Soviet Jews arrive in Israel.Credit: Pavel Wohlberg

More than a third of all Israelis who committed suicide between 2000 and 2013 were immigrants to the country, 94.5% of whom were from the former Soviet Union and Ethiopia, a new study conducted by the Knesset's Research and Information Center states.

In the period surveyed, there were 4,806 cases of suicide in Israel, and 1,658, or 34.5 percent of them, were immigrants who took their own lives, the Knesset study found. In addition, immigrants represented about a third of all those who committed suicide every year between 2005 and 2013.

Nearly 80 percent of the immigrant suicides were committed by people who had moved to Israel from the former Soviet Union after the year 1989, while 16.6 percent were immigrants from Ethiopia who arrived in Israel after 1979. In 2013, the last year surveyed, 117 immigrants took their lives, 100 from the former Soviet Union, 15 from Ethiopia and only two from elsewhere. Other population groups with a relatively high incidence of suicide include Holocaust survivors and soldiers in the Israel Defense Forces, the study notes.

For his part Ethiopian-born Likud Knesset member Avraham Nagosa, who chairs the Knesset's Immigration, Absorption and Diaspora Affairs Committee, noted that many immigrants experience a crisis in their lives following their arrival but are concerned about being labeled as having emotional problems and therefor refrain from getting help.

Two years ago the government set suicide prevention as a national priority, and this year alone, the Health Ministry allocated 55 million shekels ($14 million) to training professionals to treat high-risk segments of the population in a range of languages. In addition, the Knesset report noted, the Ministry of Immigrant Absorption has provided about a million shekels in funding through a five-year plan for 11 social workers at mental health centers who speak Amharic, the native language of Ethiopian immigrants.

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