World Mental Health Day 2019: focus on suicide prevention

The World Health Organization recognizes World Mental Health Day on 10 October every year. This year’s theme set by the World Federation for Mental Health is suicide prevention. Every 40 seconds, someone loses their life to suicide. Each of us can play a role to help prevent it by making everyone well aware.

According to statics data of WHO, Close to 800000 people die by suicide every year. Furthermore, for each suicide, there are more than 20 suicide attempts. Suicides and suicide attempts have a ripple effect that impacts families, friends, colleagues, communities and societies. Suicides are preventable. Much can be done to prevent suicide at individual, community and national levels.

Suicide occurs throughout the lifespan. It is the second leading cause of death among 15-29 year-olds globally, the younger generation who is much needed to develop this world. Suicide occurs in all regions of the world. In fact, 79% of global suicides happen in low- and middle-income countries.

While the relation between suicide and mental disorders (in particular, depression and alcohol use disorders) is well established, many suicides happen spontaneously in moments of catastrophe. Further risk factors include the experience of loss, isolation, discrimination, a relationship break-up, financial problems, chronic pain and illness, violence, abuse, and conflict or other humanitarian tragedies. The strongest risk factor for suicide is a prior suicide attempt.

Much can be done to prevent suicide. WHO recommends four key interventions which have proven to be effective.

  • restricting access to means
  • helping young people develop skills to cope with life’s pressures
  • early identification and management of people who are thinking about suicide or who have made a suicide attempt, keeping follow-up contact in the short and longer-term
  • working with the media to ensure responsible reporting of suicide.

Collectively, WHO’s approach to suicide prevention is known as LIVE LIFE (leadership, interventions, vision and evaluation). This approach is the source on which comprehensive national suicide prevention strategies should be established.

Last modified: October 8, 2019