Suicide rate in Flanders down by 20%


The number of suicides committed in Flanders has fallen by one-fifth since the year 2000, likely the result of a number of measures to address the shocking figures

Risk for older adults stays same

Since 2000, the number of suicides in Flanders has fallen by 20%, according to the Flemish Expertise Centre for Suicide Prevention. That was in fact the goal of the Flemish Suicide Prevention Action Plan that was rolled out in 2012.

In 2011, a year before the plan was put into action, Flanders’ suicide rate was 50% higher than the European average. The figure was of great concern to the medical and mental health communities, especially as the rate had increased since 2000.

The Action Plan saw more attention paid to psychological counseling for youth, improved telephone and digital helplines and campaigns regarding mental health and burnout among employees, among other initiatives.

Although the goal of an overall 20% reduction on 2000 figures has been reached, suicides in the 45-59 year age group have not fallen at all, a red flag that prevention measures have not reached this group. “One reason could be that this age group was more severely affected by the economic crisis,” said Gwendolyn Portzky of the Expertise Centre. “Some who is 52 can have a much more difficult time losing their job than someone who is 28.”

Flemish welfare minister Jo Vandeurzen has earmarked €165,000 into research into the phenonmenon, which would include follow-up among friends, family members and colleagues after a suicide. This would show whether there are any common factors among those who comitted suicide.

“Then we would get a picture of how we can move ahead with specific preventative measures,” said Portzky.

Flanders’ suicide prevention hotline, which is also open to friends and family concerned about a loved one, can be reached at 1813 or