The high and rising suicide rate among Switzerland’s male farmers stands in contrast to the declining rate among rural men working in other professions, according to a new study by the University of Bern published by the newspaper SonntagsZeitung.
The suicide rate among male farmers was 38 per 100,000, a rate that has been rising since 2003. Between 1991 and 2014, 447 farmers in Switzerland took their lives.
The rate among all rural men was 33 per 100,000 over the same period. The latest figures (2015) from Switzerland’s Federal Statistical Office put the male suicide rate across all of Switzerland at 16.6 per 100,000.
Concern for the future, worries about money and succession plans were the main reasons cited for why more Swiss farmers are reaching the point of desperation. According to one Swiss newspaper 12% are facing burnout.
Many Swiss farmers are caught between a rock and a hard place. Despite substantial taxpayer support, many still face financial difficulty as larger more efficient operators, often abroad, have driven down the price of farm produce.
Farmers also carry the heavy bureaucratic burden that comes with a system of complex farm subsidies and compliance with rules aimed at reducing farming’s impact on the environment. On top of all this, current tax rules, that favour passing farms on to the next generation, narrow the range of economically attractive options for getting out.
Suicide has a painful and enduring impact on those left behind says the Swiss organisation Stopsuicide.ch, which offers support and advice.
SonntagsZeitung article (in German)