The Epidemiology of Suicide and Suicidality in Malta

Author: Dr. John Cachia

Suicide has received considerable attention in the Maltese media in 2018, due mainly to the campaign launched as part of World Mental Health Day in October 2018 by the Office of the President of Malta. The campaign was based on data on deaths by suicide for Malta which indicates an average of 2 fatal events per month with 135 recorded events for the period 2013-2017. 86% of death were males. 25% of recorded suicides had at least one contact with mental health services. Almost two-thirds of all deaths were males aged between 30 and 59 years. Among women 20% of deaths were aged 14 to 17 years. No other epidemiological data in the Maltese context is available to date.

This study identifies possible trends in suicide attempts or intent or deliberate self-harm among persons admitted against their will to mental health licensed facilities in accordance with the Mental Health Act. In 2018, notifications of 15% of acute involuntary admissions mentioned either suicide attempt or intent or deliberate self-harm alongside the disease category indicated as the primary diagnostic reason for admission. This is not a suicide incidence statistic, it reflects the number of times that suicide or suicidality were mentioned in admission documentation.

Males and persons aged between 30-44 years are more commonly represented when compared to data for all involuntary admissions. Maltese citizens and persons coming non-EU very highly developed or highly developed countries were more frequently represented. Mood disorders were the most commonly represented disease category at double the frequency when compared to all admitted cases. Anxiety related disorders whilst being the second most common disease category would seem to carry an even higher risk. More in-depth analysis is certainly needed but this data is indicative of possible risk scenarios that may be prevalent in the local context.