Study: Trauma of Holocaust triples survivors suicide risk

berlin (jps) | Psychological help must be offered to aging but still-traumatized Holocaust survivors, who, according to Israeli psychiatrists, are three times more likely to attempt suicide than those who did not suffer through the Nazi era.

This is the recommendation of researchers in a study published in this month’s issue of the “American Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry.”

Professor Yoram Barak, chief researcher of the study, said that a retroactive examination of medical records of patients going back five years showed that 90 Holocaust survivors had attempted suicide among the 374 survivors who were inpatients, whereas 45 of 502 patients who had not been through the Holocaust had attempted suicide.

The association between the Holocaust experience and suicide has rarely been studied systematically. The researchers said they believed their report was the first on the rate of suicide attempts among elderly Holocaust survivors, as it was commonly believed by psychiatrists that those who survived concentration camps had the most “endurance” and were less likely to be suicidal.

The most common method by which survivors attempted suicide was swallowing pills.

Suicide rates rise significantly when the Holocaust survivors grow old, they said. The majority of World War II veterans and Holocaust survivors still define their war experiences as being the “most significant stressors” of their lives. Aging of survivors is frequently associated with reactivation of traumatic syndromes, physical disorders, loss and psychological distress.