France: 27 people a day commit suicide, report reveals

Some 27 people commit suicide each day in France according to a new report, although the real figure could even be higher.

France: 27 people a day commit suicide, report reveals
Photo: Stavros Charakopoulos, via Flickr

A report passed to the country’s Minster of Health revealed that in 2012 the deaths of some 9,715 people were reported as suicide.

However the National Suicide Observatory said the real figure could actually be nearer 10,700 to account for a 10 percent under estimation.

Marisol Touraine, the health minister, described the report as a “tragedy for public heath” adding that it was now time to act.

The report was handed to her on the same day a worrying survey was released that said one in five French people had seriously considered taking their own life at some point.

There are an estimated 200,000 attempted suicides in France each year, with young women aged between 15 and 20 one of the main groups affected.

France’s suicide rate is well above the European average with a rate of 16.7 suicides per 100,000 inhabitants compared to 11.7 per 100,000 across the 28 EU nations.

Michel Debout from the National Suicide Observatory called for immediate action to make up for years of the problem being ignored by health authorities.

“I call on society, on the state, on the those in charge to act immediately” he said.

Jean-Claude Delgenes, the director of Technologia, a company which works with highlighting safety concerns for workers, told The Local previously that when it comes to suicide prevention France has also been left lagging behind its European neighbours.

“For a lot of issues, whether its suicide, asbestos or cancer, France was left behind when it came to creating programmes and policies geared towards prevention.

“In the UK the first plan to help prevent suicide was laid out in 1950, in France it was in the year 2000.  

SEE ALSO: Why does France have such a high suicide rate

Two industries that have been hit hard by high suicide rates are France's farming industry and its police force. French prisons are have the highest suicide rates in Europe.

Things were worse in the past with the suicide rate in France having fallen by 17 percent since 2002.

One thing the report did reveal was the huge disparities between the sexes as well as the regions around France.

As in most countries the suicide rate is significantly higher in men than in women with 25.9 deaths per 100,000 inhabitants compared to 7.4 deaths per 100,000.

In men over 85 the rate jumps up to 100 per 100,000, but only increases slightly in older women.

In terms of the disparities between the regions, it is Brittany in the west that sees the most suicides in proportion to the size of population, followed by Lower Normandy, Nord-Pas-de-Calais and the Pays de la Loire.

In these regions the suicide rate is 25 percent higher than the national average.

However the only region in France that has seen the number of suicides increase since 2002 was Lorraine, now part of a “super region” along with Alsace, Champagne and Ardenne.

Midi-Pyrénées, Corsica, Rhône-Alpes and the former Alsace were home to the lowest suicide rates. 

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France Telecom’s ex-boss faces court over string of staff suicides

France Telecom's former CEO Didier Lombard rejected any responsibility for the suicides of his employees when he faced court, a decade after a wrenching restructuring plan cost thousands of employees their jobs.

France Telecom's ex-boss faces court over string of staff suicides
Union representatives gather outside the trial of ex French Telecom CEO Didier Lombard on May 6th. Photo: Lionel Bonaventure/AFP

Lombard and other former executives are on trial on unprecedented charges of moral harassment that allegedly prompted 35 employees to take their lives in 2008 and 2009.

“The transformations a business has to go through aren't pleasant, that's just the way it is, there's nothing I could have done,” Didier Lombard told a Paris court on Tuesday.

“If I hadn't been there, it would have been the same, if not worse,” he said. “The problem was that we had to get our house in order.”

Now 77, Lombard resigned under a cloud in 2010 after several disparaging remarks including one referring to a “suicide fad” at the former state telecoms giant, since rechristened Orange.

In 2006, he told staff: “I'll get people to leave one way or another, either through the window or the door.”

Relatives of the suicide victims and other plaintiffs accuse Lombard and other officials of instituting systemic psychological pressure to push workers to quit, through forced transfers or demotions.

The restructuring plan involved cutting 22,000 jobs out of 120,000 over a three-year period.

On Tuesday, however, Lombard blamed a “media crisis” for overshadowing the success of his efforts.

“Newspapers said the company was in a terrible state, it wrecked morale,” he said.

“Profound Sadness”

In a letter he read to the court, Lombard also expressed his “sincere and profound sadness that this situation involuntarily contributed to the fragility of some, to the point that they carried out this irreparable act.”

But his remarks angered some former workers attending the trial.

“I can't believe it. It makes me sick,” said Yves Minguy, an IT specialist who suffered severe depression which he said resulted from intense pressure by his supervisors.

“Saving a company means the loss of human lives, and he couldn't do anything about it?” he told AFP after the hearing.

“It's staggering.”

During their investigation, magistrates focused on the cases of 39 employees –19 of whom killed themselves, 12 who tried to, and eight who suffered from acute depression or were signed off sick as a result of it.

Alongside Lombard, also in the dock on the same charge were his former number two Louis-Pierre Wenes and the ex-head of human resources Olivier Barberot.

Four others face charges of complicity in a trial set to be closely followed by businesses, unions and workforce experts.

If convicted, they could face a year behind bars and a 15,000-euro ($16,800) fine. The trial could last until July 12th.

Orange itself could be slapped with a 75,000-euro sanction if found guilty.

The trial marks the first time that representatives from a blue-chip company in France's CAC-40 stock index have gone on trial for moral harassment.