Questions and answers on suicide

Online Q&A
Updated August 2017

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

A: Every year close to 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 person who dies of suicide there are likely to be more than 20 others who attempt suicide. This ratio differs widely 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.