A leading member of a research group said today, on the eve of a three-day international suicide prevention conference in Tallinn, that Estonia's success story in the area could be studied by other countries. But she also urged Estonia to develop a mental health policy.
Professor Airi Värnik, a board member with the Estonian-Swedish Suicidology Institute, said the 15th European Symposium on Suicide and Suicidal Behavior, which is being held Wednesday through Friday at the national opera house, would stress an integral approach to mental health as the basis for further reducing the suicide rate.
Progress has been made, she said on ERR radio. Estonia was once at the top of the world's rankings for suicides, but now has improved to the level of western European countries. The worst year for suicides in Estonia was 1995, when there were 641 deaths - 41 per 100,000 inhabitants. That indicator is now 13.5.
"I don't know any other country that has had such a decline in suicides," Värnik said.
A government mental health policy could provide the framework for funding that would allow groups like the Institute to carry out in-depth research in the area - until now which was not possible, she said.
The website for the conference can be found here.