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Pesticides are a leading suicide method

The World Health Organization (WHO) and the International Association for Suicide Prevention (IASP) will mark World Suicide Prevention Day on 10 September to focus attention and call for global action. This year's theme is "with understanding, new hope" to draw attention to the need to translate current scientific knowledge and research about suicidal behaviour into practical programmes.

Each year, nearly 900 000 deaths worldwide are due to suicide, which accounts for more deaths than homicides and wars combined. This number is believed to be largely underestimated as suicide as a cause of death is underreported.

Pesticide ingestion is one of the leading suicide methods. Worldwide, an estimated three million cases of pesticide poisoning occur every year, resulting in an excess of 250 000 deaths. This mortality accounts for a substantial fraction of the 900 000 people who die by suicide every year. Reports suggest that it is particularly significant in rural areas, especially in some Asian countries.

It is estimated that in the last decade between 60% and 90% of suicides in China, Malaysia, Sri Lanka, and Trinidad were due to pesticide ingestion. More recently, WHO has received reports of a growing number of suicides due to pesticide ingestion in many other countries in Asia, as well as in countries such as in countries in Central and South America.

WHO recommends control of access to pesticides, which are all too often easily accessible and stored without any precautions in most households of rural areas. Ongoing pilot studies indicate that interventions to control access to pesticides are effective and work better when integrated into more comprehensive community education programmes as well as pesticide management programmes.

WHO advises that in places where pesticide poisoning is frequent, there is an urgent need to train and equip primary health care personnel to manage these cases.

For more information, contact:

Christine McNab
WHO Communications
Telephone: +41 22 7 91 46 88
Mobile: +41 79 2 54 68 15
E-mail: mcnabc@who.int

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