Every day, approximately four Czechs die by their own hands, putting the suicide rate in the country above the EU and global average.
In an attempt to improve the situation, the National Institute of Mental Health has launched an unusual project, mapping places where suicides are frequently committed and proposing measures to decrease their frequency.
The suicide rate in the Czech Republic has been gradually decreasing for the past three years, reaching the lowest point in the country’s history. But despite the trend, it still stands above EU and world average.
Approximately 1,500 Czechs kill themselves every year. And what is even more alarming, suicide is the most common cause of death among young Czechs.
Mental health experts have repeatedly criticized the fact that the Czech Republic lacks an effective help network and prevention program. Alexandr Kasal from the National Institute of Mental Health:
“Unfortunately, we are still lacking an overall programme or strategy, even though the Ministry of Health has repeatedly supported suicide prevention- WHO and other organisations are also recommend a broad based approach to the problem.
There are crisis help lines and we have a network of psychiatric care, but we are still lacking an overall approach to the problem.”
Within a social psychiatry research programme, the National Institute of Mental Health is now starting to monitor so-called suicide hotspots, places where suicides are committed more frequently than elsewhere.
One such notorious place used to be Nusle bridge in Prague, which opened in the early 1970s. Between 200 to 300 people are estimated to have jumped off the bridge before barriers were erected there in 2007.
Alexandr Kasal again:
“Our programme will focus on places, such as Nuselský bridge in Prague, where people frequently commit suicide, especially places form which they can jump down or when they can jump under a car or a train.
“The goal of our project is to identify places with higher suicide rates, which have been provided to us by the national railway administration.
“If we find such places, we can recommend steps to improve the situation, such as erecting barriers or employing guards or camera systems to monitor the place.”
According to Mr Kasal, foreign studies have shown that installing signs offering consulting services has also contributed to curbing suicides committed in given locations.
The total number of suicides committed in the Czech Republic has been steadily decreasing in the noughties, but after 2008 they started increasing again. In 2015, nearly 1,400 people committed suicide, with most of these fatalities being men.
Despite the relatively high suicide rate, the Czech Republic is still doing better than many countries in Eastern Europe, such as the Baltic states.