Local politicians and health authorities give a press conference. / FRANCISCO HINOJOSA

Malaga, among the provinces with the highest suicide rates in the country

The Hospital Regional has set up a project to detect suicidal behaviour and prevent deaths

ÁNGEL ESCALERA MALAGA.

Malaga province, along with Galicia and Asturias, has one of the highest suicide rates in Spain. There is noclear cause of this trend, said Dr Antonio Bordallo, the director of clinical management for mental health at the launch of a prevention programme this week. Named 'Código Suicidio' (Code Suicide), the aim of the scheme is to detect suicidal behaviour and prevents deaths.

The number of people to take their own lives has increased in Malaga province, which has gone from 83 deaths in 2013 to 122 in 2019, the most recent figure available. These are the official figures, but the real ones are higher. In Andalucía between 700 and 800 people take their own lives every year, according to Antonio Bordallo.

While exact figures are not available, the number of suicides is considered to have increased during the pandemic of the last two years, as there has been an increase in the number of calls for help in cases of suicide attempts.

Around 75% of cases of suicide involve men and 25% women. However in the case of attempted suicides, 60-70% involve women and 40-30% men.

An increase in suicidal behaviour among adolescents has also been confirmed, although the average age of suicide cases is still around middle-age.

Helplines

  • 024 The new Spanish government free 24-hour 365-day helpline run by the Red Cross. Real time telephone interpreting service for non-Spanish speakers.

  • Samaritans in Spain Free helpline in English for anyone feeling desperate, anxious or alone: 900525100 between 10am and 10pm or email pat@samaritansinspain.com. www.samaritansinspain.com

  • Anar Helpline and chat for children and teens (Spanish). 900202010 www.anar.org

Hospital staff and officials attending the launch of the project stressed that the problem of suicide should be made more visible, so that it stops being taboo and can be more easily prevented.

The Andalusian government's delegate in Malaga, Patricia Navarro, said that there was an unwritten pact of silence surrounding suicide to avoid a copycat effect, something that should no longer exist as people need to speak clearly about the problem.

"You can't prevent something that's hidden away or that is unknown. The aim of the project being carried out by the Hospital Regional is to achieve a situation in which suicide is not an option," said Navarro.

In charge of the project is psychiatrist Maribel Gómez del Cid, who explained that the "código suicidio" would be activated when a patient with suicidal behaviour arrives at the hospital's accident and emergency department.

The plan involves patient care and assistance (diagnosis, treatment and care) as well as having a research aspect (creating a risk profile of people with suicidal tendencies) and a training programme for professionals.

"Suicide has to be made visible," said Dr Gómez del Cid.