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Suicide helpline records increase in calls during 2021

A man in distress thinks while looking out of a window (© Centre de Prévention du Suicide)
06:03 02/02/2022

The number of calls received by the Suicide Prevention Centre (CPS) increased sharply in 2021 compared to the previous year. The numbers were released on Tuesday in the third report published by the centre since the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic. The report showed that adolescents are particularly vulnerable.

The two previous reports also reported a sharp increase in calls on the helpline since the beginning of the pandemic. In 2020, calls were already up 24% compared to 2019.

In 2021, 22,000 calls were recorded, an increase of 20% compared to 2020. Requests for support from a friend or family member during a suicidal crisis remain stable compared to 2020 but have increased by 50.9% compared to 2019. Requests on behalf of a third party are also increasing.

Adolescents are particularly vulnerable. According to the CPS, they represent an increasingly important percentage of callers and patients, which was not the case before the health crisis.

This is explained, according to the report, by their very negative vision of the future. This includes issues such as financial instability and global warming at a time in their lives when they are confronted with choices for their future.

In addition, the decrease in social engagement and interaction with the student environment (fewer parties, distance learning, etc) prevents them from establishing friendly and/or romantic relationships. The centre also points out that a young person may be surrounded by family or friends, while speaking very little about their distress.

The centre insists that suicide should no longer be a taboo. Indeed, everyone is concerned, regardless of age and social background. Talking to people with suicidal thoughts does not provoke action and allows the person to be referred to the support structures that can help.

Anyone with suicidal thoughts can contact the Suicide Prevention Centre's helpline on 0800 32 123 (it is anonymous, free and available 24 hours a day) or visit the website preventionsuicide.be.

Written by Nick Amies