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  • Writer's pictureMariia Chubareva

Dutch suicide prevention organizations act amidst rising suicide rates

The waiting list for mental healthcare in the Netherlands is growing simultaneously with a more alarming statistic: the number of suicide deaths among youngsters. Dutch suicide prevention organizations are launching initiatives in an attempt to reverse this trend.


For those in the Netherlands: if you or someone you know is struggling with depression or experiencing suicidal thoughts, call 0800-0113 (available 24/7) or visit https://www.113.nl/ for more information. In case of emergency or life-threatening danger, call 112 immediately.


Statictics Netherlands

The most recent report by Statistics Netherlands shows that the suicide death rate in people under 30 has reached 33%, more than double what it was 20 years ago. This makes suicide the main cause of death among young people in the Netherlands.


Bernard Ros, a 49-year-old Groningen resident, is a secretary at SNZG, a local support group for people bereaved by suicide. It was after losing his wife to suicide that Bernard began working at SNZG. His wife had been struggling with bipolar disorder and at the time they both felt it was difficult to talk about mental problems because society could “put a stamp on your forehead that you are sick and abnormal.”


© Bernard Ros

The stigma over suicidality is one of the main things suicide prevention organizations try to overcome. “Sometimes people think that if someone is suicidal, their mind is made up and you cannot help them anymore. However, research shows that it is just not true,” says Dr. Mandy Gijzen, a Behavioral and Social Studies researcher at the University of Groningen.


According to Dr. Gijzen, starting a conversation is the first step of the healing process for people with mental disorders. However, young people find it hard to talk about their problems for reasons such as societal pressure. That’s why 113, a national suicide prevention organization, is actively trying to involve young people in their research to find out what exactly they need.


For that purpose, 113 engaged 41 young adults with and without suicidal behavior in their recent study. The research found that multiple factors contribute to suicidal thinking in young individuals, with performance pressure, loneliness, and financial problems being the most popular stress factors. The study stated that youngsters require a safe environment to speak about their problems.


The ability to be aware of and talk about mental struggles is something kids need to learn from a young age. Erik Broersma, a 36-year-old civil engineer from Leeuwarden, lost his sister to suicide in 2018. Erik recalls that his sister had been struggling with clinical depression since she was a teenager. “When I was young, around 20 years old, I didn’t realize how serious it was and that it could actually end,” admits Erik.



Erik Broersma © Mariia Chubareva

Dr. Gijzen mentions the ‘Storm’ project as an example of implementing the topic of mental health in education. This project focuses on teaching children and staff at schools how to talk about mental issues. Gijzen explains that this helps kids better express their feelings and guides adults on how to properly respond to children’s struggles without being dismissive.


Ultimately, Gijzen notes that most research focused on suicidality in youth is still ongoing. She hopes that these efforts will lead to a decrease in the deaths by suicide. “As a researcher, that’s what I strive for. And we all together need to strive to become a country where no one wants to die by suicide.”


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