Suicide Attempts in Israel 19% Over Last Decade, but Resulting Deaths Much Lower

Health Ministry numbers from 2008 show immigrants and Arabs attempt to kill themselves at higher rates than Israeli-born Jews.

A new Health Ministry report suggests there has been a moderate rise in the number of suicide attempts in Israel in recent years.

In 2008, emergency treatment wards in local hospitals reported 4,510 suicide attempts, a 4 percent rise from 2007. On average the number of reported attempts between 2004-2008 stood at 4,300 per year, a 19 percent increase compared to the 1999-2002 year.

Among males, a third of suicide attempts are by youths and young men up to the age of 24; among women who try to take their lives, half are up to the age of 24. The highest incidence of attempts involving men and women is among 19 year-olds.

In 2008, 1,143 young women and 638 young men were hospitalized after attempting suicide.

In the Arab community there has been a serious rise in suicide attempts in the past decade: a 40-percent increase among men, and 20-percent rise among women.

In general the number of suicide attempts in the Jewish community is proportionately higher than in the Arab community, but the gap has narrowed; the former is now 20 percent higher than the latter

However, while there has been a rise in the number of suicide attempts, the actual number of deaths as a result of these acts has dropped by 24 percent over the past two years. In 2007, 250 men and 56 women died after taking their own lives.

The rate of suicide increases with age: 6 suicides per 100,000 Israeli residents aged 15-25, compared to 12 per 100,000 for those aged 75 and above.

During the past decade there was a rise in the number of young women, up to the age of 24, who committed suicide, but the figures stabilized by 2007.

In the early 2000s, there was also an increase in the number of suicides among youth from the Arab community.

The number of suicides among immigrants is higher than those born in Israel, and in the past decade a third were immigrants, mostly from the former Soviet Union and Ethiopia.

According to an analysis on the basis of family status, 2006 appears to have been a watershed, showing a rise of 44 percent in suicide attempts of single men aged 45-64, compared to the previous year.

Geographically speaking, between 2005 and 2007, the numbers of suicides was high particularly in the north.

The breakdown, per 100,000 citizens, was: 10.2 in the Kinneret area; 9.1 in the Hadera area; 8.7 in the Haifa district; and 8.7 in the Sharon region.

The lowest rates of suicide were registered in the Jerusalem area - 5.9 per 100,000 - and there were 4.3 per 100,000 in the territories (Judea, Samaria, and the Gaza Strip, before the disengagement ).

In terms of methods used, between 2005-2007, half of the suicides of males involved hanging (45 percent ), a quarter used firearms (24 percent ), and 11 percent jumped off a high place.

Among women, 34 percent hanged themselves, 21 percent jumped to their deaths, 9 percent used poison and 8 percent used a weapon.

Analysis over a decade suggests that the highest proportion of suicides occurs between May and July. For men, the highest figures are for the months of July, May, January and September; for women, January, May, September and August.

Six months ago the Health Ministry embarked on a pilot project which aims at preventing suicides and is being implemented in the communities of Rehovot, Ramle and Kafr Kana.