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Denmark has reduced number of suicides, but more can be done to help those at risk

The Local Denmark
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Denmark has reduced number of suicides, but more can be done to help those at risk
A file photo of a Danish telephone helpline centre. Photo: Liselotte Sabroe/Ritzau Scanpix

Denmark is one of a limited number of countries to have seen a reduced national suicide rate over the last three decades.

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The total number of people who took their own life in Denmark in 2017 was around 600, compared to an annual rate of 1,600 in 1980.

The Danish Research Institute for Suicide Prevention says that it is more difficult to end one’s own life than in the past.

“Everything that contains carbon monoxide has been cut back and the dangerous medicine which people had access to before has been changed to less dangerous preparations,” said Merete Nordentoft, a professor at the institute.

International journal Science on Friday highlighted Denmark in its focus on countries working to reduce suicide rates.

The country has also improved its ability to help prevent suicide through counselling, according to Nordentoft.

“Telephone helplines, suicide prevention clinics in the various (healthcare administrative) regions and a number of other targeted efforts have given people in risk zones better help,” she said.

Jeppe Kristen Toft, a director with the Livslinien (Lifeline) helpline, said the need for counselling remained high for those at risk of suicide.

“Everything suggests that it is crucial for suicide prevention that we at Livslinien are open at night as well as during the day,” Toft said.

While recognizing the trend as a positive one, Nordentoft noted that Denmark still has a high suicide rate and that it was important to continue work to reduce it.

“There’s nothing more we can do in regard to making it harder to commit suicide. That’s why we have to help at-risk people directly,” she said.

Denmark does not have a national plan of action for reducing suicide rates, in contrast to many other countries.

Toft called for such a plan to be introduced in the Nordic country.

“Even in a country as small as Denmark, not all initiatives are scaled up so they work nationally. That’s why we need to coordinate all initiatives,” he said.

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