Suicide is a significant national social issue in Greenland. According to government reports, 1 in every 5 people (according to some research, 1 in every 4 people) in Greenland attempt to kill themselves at some point in their lifetimes. Different initiatives have been taken to reduce the suicide rate in the country. One such measure is roadside posters.
The number of suicides in Greenland began to rise in the 1970s; it kept increasing until 1986. In 1986, suicide was the leading cause of death in several towns, such as Sarfannguit. In 1970, the rate of suicide in Greenland was historically very low, but by 1990–1994, it had become one of the highest in the world with 107 per 100,000 persons committing suicide per year. Government reports suggest that almost one suicide occurs a week.
Methods of suicide in Greenland (based on a study of 1286 cases)
Jumping from heights (2%)
Cutting with sharp objects (1%)
Incidence and variance
An article published in the journal BMC Psychiatry in 2009 reported that total of 1351 suicides took place in Greenland during the study period of 35 years (1968–2002). In the study, significant seasonal variation of the suicide rate was noted, characterized by peaks in June and troughs in the winter. The clustering of suicides in summer months was more pronounced in areas north of the Arctic Circle. Regional variations are also observed; suicide rates in northern parts of West Greenland are higher than in southern parts.
Suicide rates are higher for men than women. Most of the people committing suicide are young men between the ages of 15-24. Unlike in other Western countries, the suicide rate in Greenland decreases with age.
Several reasons are blamed for Greenland’s high rate of suicide, including alcoholism, depression, poverty, conflict-ridden relationship with partner, dysfunctional parental homes, etc. According to a report published in the Science Daily in 2009, the suicide rate in Greenland increases during the summer. Researchers have blamed insomnia caused by incessant daylight.
Culture clash between the traditional culture and modern Western culture is also assumed to be a contributing factor.
Violent methods were used in committing suicide in 95% of cases. The most common methods were hanging (46%) and shooting (37%); other methods, such as jumping from heights, cutting with sharp objects, drowning, overdose of medication, and poisoning were also used, but less frequently.
Greenland’s Government, and also different international and national organizations, have undertaken a variety of efforts and initiatives to prevent suicides. There are different associations that provide help and suggestions to those people who are trying to commit suicide. Measures include posters placed along the roads, which read: “”The call is free. No one is alone. Don’t be alone with your dark thoughts. Call. Suicide consultants are employed to show films discouraging teenage suicide attempts.