World Suicide Prevention Day held in Latvia

Data by the World Health Organization places Latvia as the country with the 27th-highest suicide rate in the world, while in male suicide rates Latvia ranks 14th. On the World Suicide Prevention Day, Latvian Radio 4 looked at how organizations work to help people on the edge of taking their own lives.

The campaign Don't turn your back, started last year, aims to inform the society about mental illnesses, and the myths related to them that are still rife within society.

But one complex reality is that people are reluctant to face difficulties. Inese Ruka from the Skalbes crisis center is sure that people avoid talking about suicide. However, it is not right and sometimes it takes a bit of courage to ask "I feel alarmed. Are you alright?" According to statistics, the risk of suicide drops by 30% if the person has the chance to share his or her worries. 

The suicide rate in Latvia is alarming. Last year, 382 people took their own lives. In comparison, 240 people died in road crashes.

"Mental illnesses are very often tied to suicide. A high risk factor for committing suicide is depression," said Toms Pulmanis, a representative of the Centre for Disease Prevention and Control. 

He's sure that if people would seek professional help, the suicide rate in the country would be lower. However, people don't rush for help and prefer to remain in solitude with their problems. Fear of being rejected is to blame.

Elmārs Rancāns, vice president of the Latvian Psychiatrists' Association, sees patients dogged by mental illnesses each day, and every single day these people are misunderstood by the society. 

He said that the number of Latvians living with mental illnesses is stable, though it stands at about 15-20% of the society.

The website of the campaign, www.nenoversies.lv, helps to inform the society about mental illnesses and lists institutions and crisis centers where people can turn for help.

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