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Eye on France: Surge in statistics for suicide and survivalism

The World Health Organisation says one person commits suicide every 40 seconds.
The World Health Organisation says one person commits suicide every 40 seconds. pixabay

Suicide and survivalism are the contradictory terms dominating today’s look at the French press. According to the latest figures from the public health authorities, issued to mark Tuesday, 5 February, national day for the prevention of suicide, the tendency is far from promising. Especially for women, where the prevalence of suicidal thinking has shown an alarming increase.


Survivalists might seem to have a lot in common with the suicidal, since the people the French call ”collapsologists” are convinced that we’re living through the final days of civilisation.

Instead of killing himself, the average survivalist heads for the margins of our doomed society and tries to live in harmony with nature, getting ready for the day, just around the corner, when Planet Earth will leave us with no alternative but to waste less, pollute less, consume less.

Rise in suicidal tendencies

In 2017, more than 7 percent of the French population – that’s about three million people – admitted having considered ending their lives. Nearly five percent had thought about committing suicide in the previous twelve months. Zero-point-four of a percent had actually attempted to kill themselves.

Men continue to dominate the suicide statistics, accounting for three-quarters of all self-inflicted deaths. But the place of women in these tragic figures is ever-growing.

Nearly ten percent of French women between the ages of 18 and 75 admit to at least one suicide attempt; that’s by comparison with four percent of men.

Why are women catching up?

Victims of sexual assault are more likely than the rest of the population to have suicidal tendencies, so are those suffering from depression, the heavily-indebted, the recently divorced.

All of that sounds logical enough, until you realize that far more women than men are admitted to hospital in the wake of a suicide attempt. And teenage girls between 15 and 19 are the group consistently spending the longest time in recovery.

France has one of the highest suicide rates in Europe, narrowly trailing the east of the continent, Finland and Belgium.

The tragic international tendency is confirmed: suicide kills more French people in the 15 to 24 age bracket than any other cause apart from road accidents.

Survival of the fittest

Which brings us back to survivalism.

Collapsology didn’t start yesterday, but the French movement certainly got a major boost late last year when a former French ecology minister, Yves Cochet, issued a wake-up call in the daily paper Libération.

Putting it bluntly, Yves said we had just about a decade to get ready for the end of the world as we know it. He put the sell-by date sometime in the year 2030.

The symptoms are all plain to see. The various crises in such spheres as ecology, economy, society and politics are, in fact, closely related and point towards a general collapse of so-called industrial civilisation. This used to be of limited interest to a small number of university researchers, until the general public got a whiff of it.

When the French daily Le Monde recently called for reader testimonies from survivalists, they received nearly 300 accounts in the first couple of hours.

Living useless, wasteful lives

Many contributors complained of having a sense that their professional existence was worse than meaningless, despite the fact that they occupied positions of responsibility.

Others regret earlier lives dominated by Amazon spending sprees, overseas holidays, by a level of waste which they now consider shocking. They were consumers, an activity which they now regard as neither pure nor simple.

Those who have come out the other side are not content to nag the rest of us about our wasteful ways: many have opted for the small-scale simple gesture of reducing their consumption of meat. Others have decided to boycott supermarkets, buying directly from producers.

Preparing for the worst

The least optimistic have already moved away from the big cities, choosing isolated mountain regions where food can be grown, where local support networks already exist, and where traditional skills can be shared.

Some have started to learn how to use weapons.

And even if the feared collapse does not take place, or if it does and nobody notices, many survivalists say they are happy to have left the bizarre principles of consumer society behind.

“We’re helping to make the world better and fairer,” they say. “Hopefully, our children will get to see skies full of birds.”

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