Questions and answers on suicide

Online Q&A
Reviewed August 2015

Q: Is suicide really a problem? How many people die by suicide every year?

A: Every year over 800 000 people die as a result of suicide. This is one death every 40 seconds. Beyond this, suicide has a ripple effect that impacts on societies, communities, friends and families who have lost a loved one to suicide. So, yes, suicide really is a serious public health problem.

Q: How many people attempt suicide every year?

A: There are indications that for each adult who died of suicide there were likely to be more than 20 others attempting suicide. However, as is the case for the rates of suicide and suicide attempts, there is wide variation in the attempt-to-death ratio and in the case fatality rate of suicide attempts by country, region, sex, age and method.

Q: Are suicides preventable?

A: Yes, suicides are preventable and effective interventions exist. First and foremost, early identification and treatment of depression and alcohol use disorders are key for the prevention of suicide at individual level, as well as follow-up contact with those who have attempted suicide and psychosocial support in communities. Equally important are effective interventions at population level aiming to reduce access to the means of suicide, to adopt responsible reporting of suicide by the media, and to introduce alcohol policies to reduce the harmful use of alcohol. From the health systems perspective, it is imperative for health-care services to incorporate suicide prevention as a core component.