Forever Young

Italy and Sweden are two very different countries for many reasons.

One of them is the prime cause of mortality for under 25 year olds:

  • In Italy the first cause of death is road accidents.
  • In Sweden its suicide.

Many could read this and say it’s typical, Italians are all crazy drivers and Swedes get manic depressed during winter, but there is much more to see then just that.

The religious factor plays its role, as Italy is predominantly Catholic and Sweden Protestant ad secular and because of this people tend to have different understandings on the ‘consequences’ of committing such an act (I would believe fear of ending up in hell for taking your life is stronger in Italy than Sweden).

What is the real cause at the basis of it?

Difference in climate and hours of daylight/darkness? For sure, the impact of atmospheric conditions on the population’s psychological well-being  is important but also society in Sweden tends to be, by stereotype and partly by fact. more shy and individualistic then the Italian one. It might be the strong sense of family, love for the mother (that beyond the stereotypes is actually quite true) and ties to the community that somehow prevails and any idea of terminating one’s life would be seen as an act of  ‘selfishness’.

No denying that it is a deeply tragic fact in Sweden too, but somehow I get the impression that in Italy it is, if possible, even harder to accept for the religious/cultural factors connected to it.

Whist depression might be strong ‘common sense’ and road safety are also strong in Scandinavia and this is the reason why out of a sample of 100.000 people only 3 a year die in road accidents in Sweden whilst in Italy it’s 7.1.

Strangely enough even the suicide rate difference between the two countries is similar as in Italy has a stable figure of around 5.9 out of 100.000 whilst Sweden has an unstable rate that varies reaching it’s all-time low in recent years that is around 12 but before used to be around 16. These studies were done 10 years ago and due to the current economical and social situation in Italy the rate of suicides has definitely  increased by some margin.

Today is the anniversary of the death of a school mate, just one year younger then me at the time. On the 12th of April 2010 Leonardo Secci, 16 years of age, on his way to school just as he reached the gate on his moped, got hit by a car.

The teachers, friends and two ambulances were useless; nothing could be done as he left us the moment he hit the ground.

Leonardo Secci Memorial

That day the entire school stopped; no more lessons, no more bells were rang everyone was on the balcony or in the garden on that sunny day. Some were praying, others were cursing, loads were smoking and most were in tears.

The sensation of surrealism that you could breathe in those hours is indescribable.

Leo was a cool guy. Young, clever, funny, popular and everyone knew him or heard of him..

Two weeks prior to the incident I remember my first long conversation with him as he came for a trial session to the gym where me and a common friend of ours used to go.

Once we finished he went out of his way to gave me a lift to the beach once we had finished, he drove fast and had a very light helmet but so did everyone his age and although at the moment I felt a bit scared I never thought it was worth mentioning to him as I was grateful for the lift and was in no real position to be able to do so.

I’ll never forget that day.

The most recurrent song on the radio at that time in Italy was ‘Young Forever’  and for all of us at school it became a tribute song to Leo’s life cut short far too early.

In general, I think if you ask around you will find that in Italy many young people will know at least one person who lost their life on the road, in Sweden instead, I find that many know of people who decided to take their lives.

Two beautiful countries, two ongoing tragedies.

If we encouraged more cultural exchange programmes for school kids in the two countries could we possibly have a positive influence on new generations of Swedish and Italian young adults?

Worth a thought..

Useful Links:

Road Safety project ‘Vivo Sicuro‘ (live safely) that I and a few mates as school reps started one year later in tribute to Leo but to work on trying to prevent other people from dying on the roads:


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