Thursday, 7 February 2013

The spate of suicides at the Arena of Nîmes

The outer walls of the Arena of Nîmes
The municipal authorities of Nîmes, in the Languedoc-Rossillon region of Southern France, are used to dealing with the many thousands of tourists who flock there each year to admire the city's beautiful architecture and Roman remains, but they are now facing an altogether new and baffling challenge from another category of 'tourists'.

Perhaps the most-visited site in Nîmes is the Roman amphitheatre. More commonly known today as the Arena of Nîmes, it is now used mainly for bullfighting events, music concerts and, more recently.....suicide attempts.

Tall and famous monuments have always attracted suicide candidates, and the Arena of Nîmes is no exception, with two recorded suicides there over the ten years up to last November. It was then that events suddenly took a dramatic turn for the worse. 

There have been five suicide attempts at the Amphitheatre over the last four months, three of which succeeded, with the other two leading to very serious injuries. All those concerned were aged between 20 and 30 and they had all jumped off the arena's high outer walls.

In an attempt to prevent further suicides the city's authorities have issued a byelaw which bars entry to the amphitheatre to all visitors who come alone. They are also considering setting up a psychological trauma unit to deal with people who are in shock after witnessing someone throwing themselves off the walls and plunge down to the street. Children are particularly vulnerable to psychological trauma in these circumstances, the authorities say, and this has added added a further sense of urgency to efforts to find ways of preventing similar suicides in the future.

Various meetings and consultations have been taking place in order to try and understand the phenomenon, but no answers are as yet forthcoming, and the byelaw has no 'end-of' date and will thus remain in vigour for as long as authorities deem it to be appropriate.

There have been several instances in France over the last three years in which a specific community, or group of people with something in common, or group using the same method, has suddenly experienced a dramatic increase in suicide attempts. They include a spate of about a dozen suicides by France Télécom employees (although there is disagreement about just how much higher this rate is compared to that of the population as a whole), five attempts at self-immolation in under a year, three of which succeeded, five policemen in Paris who killed themselves with their service weapons in just one week, and a spate of people who died in their cars during the Christmas period and the first half of January this year after deliberately stopping them on high-speed railway level crossings in front of oncoming trains. This last example, incidentally, appears to repeat itself regularly at this time of the year.

News of these sudden spates of suicides involving common factors is to be seen regularly in the French media, and I have the impression that this isn't the case in Britain or America, whose media I follow assiduously. Why this may be I do not know, but I do know that France, as a Western country, has abnormally high suicide rates, particularly in comparison to those of Britain and America.

Meanwhile though, let's just hope that the mysterious series of suicide attempts which have occurred at the Arena of Nîmes ends just as quickly as it began.....


  1. It is very hard for me to write about suicide because I had a friend who killed himself 2 months ago. He was depressed; he took a shotgun and pulled the trigger. He was 40 years old.
    Maybe it is because I work in a ruthless business but I have so many friends who are doing drugs. Not recreational drugs (though they do them too), but hardcore ones -crystal meth, crack/tar cocaine; if they make it alive, their personality changes and they'll never be their old self ever again. It also takes a toll on their health and they age very fast.
    I have no idea why those french people would chose the Nimes arena to commit suicide or why they, in particular, are killing themselves but when you are in this mental state, you probably don't care that children see you jump to your death.
    i sent you an article about happiness not long ago. People who are happy are takers and people who live a meaningful lives are givers. Viktor Frankl wrote a whole book about it and the solution to why people chose to live or die is right in there.

    1. Oh I'm so sorry to read about your friend Nadege. It's hard for me to imagine how bad someone must feel for them to be able to take their own lives. There but for the grace of god.....

      As to the entertainment world being ruthless, I can, as you know, confirm that and I too have seen people I know end up dead from it all. Awful.

      Yes, I read the article of course and shall get round to posting on it as and when I find a new story or something I can use as a 'handle' or 'hook' for it, as they say in the press...

  2. Sorry to be totally off topic but I was wondering if you were going to do a piece about the week that Francois Hollande has just had.

    Not that I'm being pushy or telling you what to do or anything! Just be interested in your take on his week.

    1. Hi Streaky, nice to see you! My take on Hollande's horrible week you say? Sure, no sooner said than done.


  3. My husband had two relatives commit suicide in recent years. One, father to a disabled adult son, killed himself after getting a diagnosis of a serious illness. He used a gun. The other had suffered from mental illness for many years but seemed to have been improving. In a way, I am baffled by this. In our country, we have suicide hotlines, 24 hour lines that people can call and talk to a trained mental health volunteer. By bridges here that potential suicides target, authorities will post signs with a message saying that things are never hopeless, please call this number....we also experience "copycat" suicides here. And, there are teens who take this way out due to extreme bullying. It is a far from perfect situation here in the States. I'm sorry to hear of the problems in France. Any suicide is sad, too sad.