Suicide prevention projects: the current state in Europe and in Italy

Suicide prevention projects: the current state in Europe and in Italy

The new millennium has seen important developments in the area of ​​suicide prevention policy. Starting from the data relating to the number of deaths, it was seen the need to adopt a series of measures aimed at reducing the extent of the phenomenon.


Advertising message To date, the most updated data of the World Health Organization analytically illustrate the global epidemiological situation. 79% of suicides occur in middle / low income countries, equally distributed between men and women, while in high income countries there is a higher mortality rate by population size (11.5 per 100,000 inhabitants), with a clearly greater distribution for the male gender. Although the data attribute the primacy to the Asian super continent in terms of number of suicides, the phenomenon is one of the main concerns also in Europe.

In fact, the European Union contains 6 of the 10 countries with the highest risk of international suicides with particular peaks between 45-59 years and those over 70.

Since 2008, Europe and the WHO have agreed to carry out suicide prevention programs aimed at reducing the mortality rate by 2020 (to date it represents 1.4% of the total number of annual deaths). For this purpose, in the last 10 years we have seen the implementation of numerous projects based on 3 specific sub-objectives:

In Europe, 11 suicide prevention programs of variable duration and with the involvement of several union member states have been developed. Following are three of the main ones (Pompili et al., 2020).

Recent studies have reported a reduction in the suicide rate, but the correlation between these results and the application of interventions is unclear (Pompili et al., 2020)

Advertising message Hofstra and colleagues (2019) conducted a recent meta-analysis with the aim of investigating the effectiveness of structured interventions to prevent suicide and suicide attempts. The meta-analysis involves 15 studies with 29,071 participants, retrieved through the main scientific search engines (Pubmed- Psychoinfo, Cochrane database). The results of this analysis show how the application in synergy of multilevel suicide prevention interventions (patient hospitalization, support groups, pharmacological support, community interventions) report a greater effectiveness in reducing the phenomenon (mainly for suicide, in less measure for suicide attempts) than control groups.

However, the researchers point out that the correlation of efficacy is unclear and the interaction of different variables should be considered (such as the patient’s clinical characteristics and hospitalization setting).

It’s Italy ?

In Italy during 2012-2013 the ISTAT data processed by the Istituto Superiore di Sanità (ISS) reported an annual suicide rate of 8.06 (per 100.00 residents over 15 years of age). More recent data report a significant decrease (Istat 2016 census reports a rate of 7.1 per 100,000 residents with a prevalence of the male gender 3 times higher than the female).

In 2019 the Istituto Superiore di Sanità announced the activation of the Epidemiological Observatory on suicides and suicide attempts (Oestes) which has as main objective to provide an exhaustive epidemiological picture on the phenomenon in the national context. Although an indicative average of 4,000 suicide deaths per year is maintained, there is no national prevention plan.

It therefore represents a point of fundamental importance that mental health professionals and health personnel have specific training and use standardized assessment tools for the timely recognition of cases.