The Reflection on Changing Society, Psychiatry, Self in Suicide


Vilnius University Medical Faculty Psychiatric Clinic, Vilnius, Lithuania

Vilnius University Medical Faculty, Vilnius, Lithuania

Vilnius University Medical Faculty, Vilnius, Lithuania


The presence of twin graves in Baltic and Indo-European lands dating from two thousand years ago are indicative of either sacrifice or the known tradition of wives to commit suicide after their husbands’ death. In the year 523, suicide was even legitimized with the introduction of statue by the Prussian rulers: “If a man is burdened with ill women, children, brothers, sisters or relatives, or he himself is ill, and if is his will, we must let them burn or self-immolate since servants of our gods should not moan but laugh instead”. In the 12th century, the best-known of Lithuania’s Grand Dukes and the founder of Vilnius, self-sacrifice was considered an honour to the Duke. In the same era, on a par with the legendary mass suicide at Masada in the Holy Lands, defenders of Pilėnai Castle in central Lithuania committed a mass suicide in 1336. Over the past 100 years Lithuania has experienced significant political and social changes and each historical stage has a distinctive nature of people’s psychosocial well-being and suicide frequencies.

Methods: This epidemiological analytical study covers analysis of suicidal behavior from the early twentieth century until recent years.

Results: At the beginning of the twentieth century 5-9 people (100,000 inhabitants) committed suicide per year: for example, in 1929 suicide rate (SR) was 9, whereas 39.9 in Austria, 33.2 in Germany, 29.0 in Hungary, 26.1 in Switzerland, 24.5 in Japan, 16.0 in US. SR was 1.5-2.5 times higher among men vs. women. The main method was poisonings – 40% while hanging was 20%. During the Soviet period SR had grown each year until 1984 – 35.8; SR among men increased extremely 61.4 and was 6.3 times higher than female. Lithuania became one of the countries with the highest SR in the world and hanging became the main method (80%). In 1990 after Lithuania regained its independence and SR reached its peak in 1996 – 53.1: males – 97, and females – 20. Hanging increased up to 90%. SR began to decline only in 2003 and currently it is 31.3: male rate dropped to 58.7 and female – to 9.4.

Conclusion: Lithuania has become one of the unhappiest countries in the world in terms of suicide. The Soviet period negatively influenced people’s psychosocial well-being and significantly increased the number of those in desperation and it especially affected men. Hanging became the most popular method. SR in Lithuania has begun to decline after joining the European Union.