Some 1,500 people take their own lives each year in Sweden, which has about nine million inhabitants, which makes Sweden the country with the 19th highest suicide rate in the world, according to Johansson.
Sweden is faring far better than list-leader Lithuania, which according to World Health Organization numbers from 2000 counts about 92 suicides per 100,000 inhabitants each year.
But the Swedish government said it was concerned that the number of suicides here had remained stagnant since 1997 after years of steady decline, and especially that suicide attempts among 15 to 24-year-olds were on the rise.
According to Johansson, the number of youths who attempt to commit suicide or who cut themselves has jumped from 160 per 100,000 in 1992 to around 280 per 100,000 in 2003.
“I’m worried that the earlier decline in suicides has stopped and that suicide attempts among young people has increased,” Swedish Minister for Public Health and Social Services Morgan Johansson said in a statement.
“The number has basically doubled. This is very serious,” he said.
In an attempt to reverse the trend, the government has asked the National Board of Health and Welfare and the Swedish National Institute of Public Health to make concrete suggestions how to bring the numbers down.
The two agencies have received a December 15, 2006 deadline to hand over a final report outlining how the government should proceed in confronting the problem, the ministry of health and social affairs said.