>The contribution of ethnic discrimination to suicide.


For individuals already at risk for suicidal behaviour, discrimination added to social frustration may produce devastating effects.

I was asked today by a journalist student from Denmark for a statement concerning possible associations between discrimination and the increasing of suicidal attempts in Denmark among asylum-applicants. Quoting sources of the Danish Red Cross, he referred that such suicide attempts in Denmark “have increased from 1.8 pct in 2004 to 3.0 pct in 2005.”

My painting One-way ride, 2004. Oil on canvas 70 x 80 . Click to enlarge

I have previously stated (in a SIDA conference at Stockholm University) that the hazards of negative or forced acculturation, problems in adaptation and uncertain existential conditions in the host country, and paramount, the psychiatric effects of posttraumatic statuses, make the individual vulnerable for the elicit of PTSD comorbidity (depression) or the enhancing of the eventually existing depressive states or traits.

Particularly sensitive with regard to suicidal behaviour are ideations of guilt arisen in exile (“I survived, others died”, etc) and in general the debut or worsening of the PTSD depressive symptoms or onset of depressive disorders as secondary diagnoses to PTSD.

But, what would be the contribution of ethnic discrimination to suicide?

Thinking in today’s main debate article in Dagens Nyheter authored by a professor colleague (Jerzy Sarnecki), and in which I believe he had two main points:

a) He empirically confirmed that immigrants are sentenced to harder penalties than Swedes do, for the same crimes. Clearly, being this discrimination.

b) Discrimination, which leads to utanförskap, may lead through this towards criminal behaviour.

This is my reflection:

I wonder if the same dynamics may apply to suicidal behaviour. Discrimination reinforces psychological isolation, alienation, and the sense of unfulfilled life through the deprivation of social means necessary to accomplish social integration.

For individuals already at risk for suicidal behaviour, discrimination added to social frustration may produce devastating effects.

  • On the scale describing levels of acceptance of a society towards their immigrants, we use to say that at one end we find total integration, and at the other end we find total isolation. But the true is that the opposite of integration is in fact implosion.
  • Implosion, as in demolition, is the negation of integration and cohesion.
  • The ultimate probe or confirmation of a total lack of integration would be suicide.

The political question being, who is responsible for such discrimination.

The abstract of my presentation (at the Sida Conference) “Why do PTSD comorbidity and the suicidal behaviour of refugees and torture victims increase in exile? A social psychiatric hypothesis”. here

Full text of my article in Läkartidningen (Journal of the Swedish Medical Association) “Traumatic stress and suicidal behaviour among refugees” (Traumatisk stress och flyktingars suicidbeteende ­ epidemiologiska fynd) here

To be continued

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