A view on despair, a datavisualization project by STUDIO TERP

!  Trigger warning  !

This story contains content about suicide


Are you thinking about suicide or are you in emotional distress or do you know someone who is thinking about suicide or is in emotional distress, please contact your national suicide prevention organisation.

US National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1-800-273-8255 www.suicidepreventionlifeline.org

UK Samaritans 116 123 www.samaritans.org

NL 0900-0113 www.113.nl

BE 1813 www.zelfmoord1813.be

List of suicide crisis lines by country en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List of suicide crisis lines





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Let’s just begin with the most frightening part and give you a glimpse of the darkness in me.

You know, the part most people try to ignore, suppress or hide because… Because, well, the pain, the shame, the fear. Something (often: many things) went wrong and you just can’t cope.

I found myself at the Primark. Yes, the Primark. A place I’d rather not be but I had to find this certain Harry Potter scarf for one of our kids for carnaval. And I was numb. I stood there on the escalator going up, staring over the hand railing. I looked up to the next floor where there was just a glass fence shielding the deep gap alongside the escalator. “How easy” I thought. “To just climb over”. That would be all to it. No more me. No more pain. No more shame or fear.

I guess I would have been a jumper.


I didn’t jump*. But many others do. And many others choose other ways. And I wish we could make them not to. I wish they could see/feel something that would change their mind. The ones that don’t see another way: I wish them peace. I wish the playmate from my primary school, who in his teens hanged himself in the staircase of his parental dwelling, peace. I wish my former colleague, who wrote his girlfriend a farewell-note and then went to the forest to hang himself, peace. I wish peace to the boyfriend of a dear friend who refused to take medication and died of the consequences of Aids, the former roommate of my sister who decided the misery of her life was enough and went to drown herself, the woman who laid herself down in front of the large rear tires of my father’s crane truck when he got a green light and started driving** and the deceased woman whose body I saw lying still on the railroad tracks, the train a few metres away standing still as well.

If you feel very down, if you think you can’t make it on your own, I hope you find or have access to someone that can be of help to you. Friends are a good start, but I do recommend you get professional help. It’s important to have someone with an objective and non-judgemental view to talk to. Depression is something to take very seriously. Take yourself seriously. I really wish that we can all find peace by insight, appreciation, dealing with and hopefully enjoy living our lives, not by ending it.




*At the end of 2018, beginning of 2019, a deep depression got hold of me. Several things, happening in the past and present, led to it. It’s also probably in my genes. My mother was diagnosed with chronic depression and was committed to psychiatric institutions a number of times during my childhood and teens. I hit rock-bottom: panic-attacks, hyperventilation, constant anxiety and I didn’t want to go out or on anymore. But I did go on. Part of why I did go on is because I’m angry. I refuse to give in. I’ve seen and felt enough of how depression affects a family, especially a child, and I don’t want to be that person. So I reached out to several professional helpers (my doctor, my counsellor, a breathing therapist) and recently my first appointment for the real deal therapy was confirmed after being on a waiting list for over 4 months (contrary as to what most of you probably think the Dutch mental health system sucks big time!!). I hope the therapy will help me change or at least understand and cope with the patterns that limb me. I want to function better and appreciate myself more than I (n)ever did. Oh and: I’m on medication. I resisted at first (I know what it did to my mother), but it shows it helps me a lot. I have become more patient. I read many books on several subjects and I began creating again. Things are still messy. There is still a lot of stuff to overcome. I am still afraid (and I have my reasons believe me) I’m just not that strict with myself anymore and that in itself is worth an awful lot.


** My dad luckily didn’t see it happen (didn’t notice as well because of the size and weight of his crane truck) and was urged to stop by a taxi driver. He was strongly advised to not walk around his truck to have a look, that would have been too traumatic. He did receive victim support afterwards and he also had contact with the husband of the woman, who assured him there was nothing he could have done to prevent it and if it hadn’t been my dad's truck on that time and place his wife would have probably looked for another way to end her life.

A view on despair

by Sonja Kuijpers





please scroll with regard

(best viewed on large screen)

You might be wondering what you are viewing here.

This landscape, each element in it represents a person who committed suicide in the Netherlands in the year 2017.





Each category/method of suicide is represented by a certain element:

hanging (strangulation)


taking drugs/alcohol/medicines


in front of train or metro




jumping from height


other method*


unknown method



*Other methods such as taking poison, an intentional traffic accident, jumping in front of a car, truck or tram, shooting oneself with a gun or cutting oneself with a sharp tool, suicide by means of inhaling gas etc.



The categories are split into 8 age-groups between < 20 years and > 80 years. Differences in colour, form and/or size of the elements show the different age-groups. The landscape is “split” into men and women: men on the left, women on the right.


total men: 1304

total women: 613

Suicide in the Netherlands 2017

The number of people who have died by suicide is high

1.917 people ended their lives in 2017, 23 more than in 2016.
On average 5 people a day. That is the highest number ever. However, relatively, the suicide number has hardly changed since 2013 which was a peak since the crisis.

Crisis related suicides?

Since the 2008 economic crisis the number of suicides in several countries increased. From international research it appears suicide can correlate with an economical crisis. It’s unknown if and in what way financial misery influenced the increase of suicides in the Netherlands. Either way, there are relatively few suicides in the Netherlands compared to other countries.

Facts/numbers on suicide in the Netherlands


In absolute numbers there are over 1,800 suicides a year in the Netherlands.
8.3% of adults have once considered suicide.
2.2% of adults have once tried to commit suicide.
The exact number of suicide attempts a year is not precisely known, but estimates are 94,000.
14,000 people require emergency treatment after attempted suicide annually.
Men commit suicide more often than women, but women on average make more attempts than men.


Possible explanations, which are being examined, of the notable increase of suicides among youngsters (can also be taken into account with other age groups) are probably a mixture of a few or more of following:

The Dutch government has been reforming and cutting on (mental) healthcare which causes problems in several ways: less proper psychiatric institutional help, increasing waiting lists for treatment/therapy, the sometimes inadequate quality of district teams (the government reformed social/health care laws and made municipals the responsible party for youth care), insufficient mental healthcare in hospitals for kids who tried to commit suicide but failed.

The pressure of social media (you must be beautiful/successful), hypes like choking challenges, too much attention by the media, romanticising death and Netflix “13 Reasons Why”.

And then there is the inadequate education (especially about psychological issues) at schools, the possible increase of accessible deadly methods, the advance of organisations who plead for voluntary end of life and of course the role of … stigma, shame and feelings of isolation.


Data: statline.cbs.nl/Statweb/publication, Facts and numbers (Dutch): 113.nl/informatie/feiten en cijfers over suicide, Probable causes (Dutch): ad.nl/binnenland/bijna dubbel zoveel zelfmoord onder jeugd dertien mogelijke verklaringen

Doctors file a cause of death declaration for every deceased in the Netherlands. These documents are transferred electronically to the CBS (central Bureau of statistics) where all data is processed completely anonymously.


If you'd like to learn more on the design-process of this project, I wrote a blog: "Trees, clouds and-waves. Or how I visualized data on suicide" which you can find here.