Fewer Danes attempting suicide with pills

More helpline options for young people and tougher pharmacy rules making inroads

The number of Danes who attempt to commit suicide by ingesting pills has fallen drastically over the past four years, according to figures from the State Serum Institute.

In 2010, there were 1,153 suicide attempts with pills in Denmark – a figure that decreased to just 430 in 2014. In particular, suicide attempts among young people are down.

“You can no longer just walk in off the street and buy large amounts of painkillers, a method that many young girls used,” said Birgit Elgaard – the head of Bedre Psykiatri, the association for relatives of mentally-ill people – told Metroxpress newspaper.

READ MORE: Danish government proposes more cuts to suicide prevention

Progress online
In 2013, it was no longer possible for people to purchase over 20 painkillers in one go, and youngsters under 18 had to have a prescription to buy pills in pharmacies.

Another explanation is the increased focus on youth and suicide in recent years, which has led to more helplines and counselling options online.

“We used to have a difficult time reaching out to the kids, and they didn’t want to talk on the phone,” said Jeppe K Toft, the head of the suicide helpline Livslinien.

“But after we began offering counselling on social media, the net and in chatrooms, the youngsters are using us the same amount as the adults.”

Despite the fewer suicide attempts, the number of suicides has remained largely unchanged over the past four years. Some 603 Danes – just 52 under the age of 29 – took their own lives in 2013.

But the government could be pulling the rug out from under the positive development after proposing three budget cuts relating to suicide prevention, totalling 43 million kroner in the period up to 2018. One of these would be to retract funding for Livslinien, forcing it to discontinue its night-time opening.