Mental health

Suicide prevention (SUPRE)

The problem

  • Every year, over 800 000 people die from suicide; this roughly corresponds to one death every 40 seconds.
  • Suicide is among the three leading causes of death among those aged 15-44 years in some countries, and the second leading cause of death in the 10-24 years age group; these figures do not include suicide attempts which can be many times more frequent than suicide (10, 20, or more times according to some studies).
  • Suicide worldwide was estimated to represent 1.3% of the total global burden of disease in 2004.
  • Mental disorders (particularly depression and alcohol use disorders) are a major risk factor for suicide in Europe and North America; however, in Asian countries impulsiveness plays an important role. Suicide is complex with psychological, social, biological, cultural and environmental factors involved.

Suicide statistics


Effective interventions

  • Strategies involving restriction of access to common methods of suicide, such as firearms or toxic substances like pesticides, have proved to be effective in reducing suicide rates; however, there is a need to adopt multi-sectoral approaches involving many levels of intervention and activities.
  • There is compelling evidence indicating that adequate prevention and treatment of depression and alcohol and substance abuse can reduce suicide rates, as well as follow-up contact with those who have attempted suicide.

Challenges and obstacles

  • Worldwide, the prevention of suicide has not been adequately addressed due to basically a lack of awareness of suicide as a major problem and the taboo in many societies to discuss openly about it. In fact, only a few countries have included prevention of suicide among their priorities.
  • Reliability of suicide certification and reporting is an issue in great need of improvement.
  • It is clear that suicide prevention requires intervention also from outside the health sector and calls for an innovative, comprehensive multi-sectoral approach, including both health and non-health sectors, e.g. education, labour, police, justice, religion, law, politics, the media.

FURTHER INFORMATION

SUPRE

Framework for public health action

This document provides a resource to assist governments in developing and implementing strategies for the prevention of suicide as well as to help those that have already initiated the process of conceptualizing national suicide prevention strategies.

WHO Initiative on the Impact of Pesticides on Health

Preventing intentional and unintentional deaths from pesticide poisoning

Preventing Suicide: a resource series

The booklets in Preventing Suicide: a resource series are addressed to specific social and professional groups that are particularly relevant to the prevention of suicide, including a resource for general physicians, media professionals, teachers, primary health care workers, prison officers, survivors, counselors, at work, and first line responders.

Suicide in mhGAP

Suicide is a priority condition in the WHO Mental Health Gap Action Programme (mhGAP).

Multisite Intervention Study on Suicidal Behaviours (SUPRE-MISS)

Suicide Trends in At-Risk Territories (START)

The Suicide Trends in At-Risk Territories (START) study is managed by the WHO Regional Office for the Western Pacific (WHO/WPRO) with technical coordination by the Australian Institute for Suicide Research and Prevention (AISRAP), Brisbane, Australia, a WHO Collaborating Centre for Research and Training in Suicide Prevention.

World Suicide Prevention Day (WSPD)

SUPRE publications

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