Luzerner Psychiatry, Luzern, Switzerland
Suicide in the Military. Hauppauge, New York: Nova Science Publishers, 2009, 210 pages.
International studies show a positive correlation between the rate of households with guns, suicides and homicides with guns in a given country. Due to its unique defence system that requires a militia to keep personal firearms at home, Switzerland has a high rate of households with a gun and in fact, has one of the highest rates of firearm suicides in the world; precise figures, to what extent army weapons are involved, however, were lacking up to now. In order to obtain such data, the records of all suicides, that occurred in the region of Basle between 1992 and 1996 were reviewed. Suicides with either army weapons or private firearms and suicides by other means were compared and methods and types of homicides that occurred in the region at the same time were also analysed. Private firearms (18%) were clearly the most frequent means of suicide, army weapons (12%) ranked fourth. Firearms for suicide were mainly used by men, especially army weapons. Men who had used army weapons where younger, professionally better qualified and fewer had ever been treated in one of the local state psychiatric services. Army weapons were also used in 12% of all homicides, its absolute figure, however, was insignificantly small.
Independently from this study, measures like an extended psychiatric-psychological assessment of future conscripts have been already introduced, but army-weapons with ammunition have still been left to the conscripts. Meanwhile, sufficient signatures in due time have been collected by political forces very critical towards the Swiss army to enforce about a referendum on the issue of no longer allowing conscripts to keep their personal weapon with ammunition at home.