Concerns increase over Greenland’s high suicide rate

suicideIncreasing concerns are being expressed within Greenland, the country with the highest suicide rate in the world. The rate in Greenland is 24 times that of the United States.

Most at risk are the young, as in many countries it is the teenage and young adult population that are most likely to kill themselves. In bus stations and on school walls posters encourage the young to call the suicide hotline: “The call is free. No one is alone. Don’t be alone with your dark thoughts. Call.”

While males tend to dominate statistics, a survey from 2008 showed alarmingly that one in four of all young women had attempted to take her life as reported by Siku News.

Danish analysis has revealed that the trend towards suicide has been a recent one in Greenland. Up until the mid-twentieth century most Greenlanders existed as they had done for thousands of years. The society was very much a hunter-gatherer community centred on small hamlets along the rugged coastline. Statistics from the early part of the century indicate Greenland was amongst the lowest in world suicide rates.

However, 1970 was a watershed year when the suicide rate began to rise, a trend that has continued to this day. By the end of the 1980s several towns reported suicide as the leading cause of death in young adults.

According to Peter Bjerregaard, a researcher at Denmark’s National Institute of Public Health, nearly all suicides from 1970 were from people born after 1950. That year represented a landmark social change for Greenland as it launched its transformation into a welfare state backed by Danish resettlement and modern aid. The move to bring Greenland into the future seems to have brought one of the developed world’s most tragic causes of death with it.

The high suicide rate has also been attributed to most deaths being from shooting or hanging, with up to 90 percent of suicides committed in this highly efficient fashion.

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