REVIEW – July – August 2008

15 years of research at the Estonian-Swedish Mental Health and Suicidology Institute: overview of results


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The present survey gives a brief overview of the studies conducted at the Estonian-Swedish Mental Health and Suicidology Institute (ERSI) during the 15 years of its existence. Epidemiological studies with a sociological approach have found that fluctuations in suicide rates in Estonia and in other former Soviet republics coincide with socio-political and economic events, middle-aged men being the most vulnerable group. During the Gorbachev massive anti-alcohol campaign, decreased alcohol consumption per capita correlated with declining suicide rate. Examination of blood alcohol concentrations at individual level showed the importance of alcohol availability: intoxicated suicides accounted for the sharp decrease, while ‘sober’ suicides remained stable. Besides alcohol consumption as a suicide risk factor, other contributing factors at individual level, e.g. migration and life events prior to suicide, have been investigated. Several studies have focused on possible suicide preventive measures like training of physicians in early detection and treatment of depression, access to suicide  methods, public awareness of suicidality, and media portrayal of suicidal behaviour. Attempted suicide and development of the suicidal process have been the main focus of the WHO worldwide and of cross-cultural studies in Europe. Attempted suicides were more likely to be female and young and the main method of attempting suicide was self-poisoning; implications for psycho-social interventions have been highlighted. Gradually, the research has expanded to cover mental health in general, introducing recently the European Alliance Against Depression (EAAD) fourlevel intervention model and the factors associated with suicidal ideation and depressive feelings in schoolchildren.
The compendium consists of 26 articles in the ISI Web of Science and in Current Content cited journals, 7 articles in internationally peer-reviewed journals and 9 chapters in internationally recognized publishers’ books. There are also lists of 12 articles and chapters accepted by or submitted to the abovementioned journals and books, as well as 17 articles or chapters in Estonian or other languages.