Some 500 Israelis commit suicide every year, more than are killed in car accidents, a Health Ministry survey of suicide rates in Israel has found. The study was released ahead of World Suicide Prevention Day on Tuesday.
The study, based on Health Ministry figures collected between 1998 and 2011, showed that 20 percent of Israeli suicides were under the age of 25. The data also showed that suicides were most frequent on Sundays, with almost 3,000 cases in total, and least frequent on Fridays, with 1,800 cases. Suicides also peaked around Jewish holidays.
At a special conference on mental health held by the IDF Medical Corps on Tuesday, figures were presented showing that suicides in the Israel Defense Forces were declining in the wake of an intervention program launched by the IDF in 2006. The data showed a 28% reduction in the number of suicides from 20 per 100,000 soldiers in 1992-2005 to 14.4 per 100,000 soldiers in 2006-2012.
Health Minister Yael German recently announced her intention to launch a national suicide prevention program. The program, which has already been introduced as a pilot program in three towns, has succeeded in reducing suicide rates in those towns by 40%.
Dr. Avshalom Aderet, chairman of the Path to Life organization, called on the government to adopt the program in the nationwide school system.
"Surveys conducted in those few schools where the principals agreed to have families whose loved ones had committed suicide, and who were trained to do so, speak to the young people, found that the youngsters are very interested in having people talk to them about their troubles and about suicide prevention," he said.
"Most school principals were not interested. But the pilot program ... proved that, in schools where the program was introduced and there was training of 'gatekeepers' to recognize boys and girls at risk, awareness was raised among teachers and students, and the number of suicide attempts decreased. The Health Ministry must decide to introduce the topic to the school system through the national suicide prevention program."