Day 4 – Suicide
An estimated 804,000 suicide deaths occurred worldwide in 2012, representing an annual global suicide rate of 11.4 per 100,000 population.
Suicide accounts for 17.6% of all deaths among young adults aged 15-29 in high-income countries. It is ranked the second leading cause of death globally and in Europe among this age group, following road traffic accidents.
Moreover, 90% of suicides can be attributed to mental illness in high-income countries and 22% of all suicides are linked to alcohol use. It is essential to address these risk factors through actions such as curbing alcohol abuse and integrating services in connection with addiction and mental illness.
Despite these data however, only 28 European countries are known to have a national suicide strategy.
Who is at risk?
While the link between suicide and mental disorders (in particular, depression and alcohol use disorders) is well established in high-income countries, many suicides happen impulsively in moments of crisis with a breakdown in the ability to deal with life stresses, such as financial problems, relationship break-up or chronic pain and illness.
In addition, experiencing conflict, disaster, violence, abuse, or loss and a sense of isolation are strongly associated with suicidal behaviour. Suicide rates are also high amongst vulnerable groups who experience discrimination, such as refugees and migrants; indigenous peoples; lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex (LGBTI) persons; and prisoners. By far the strongest risk factor for suicide is a previous suicide attempt.
Prevention and control
Suicides are preventable. There are a number of measures that can be taken to prevent suicide and suicide attempts. These include:
· reducing access to the means of suicide (e.g. pesticides, firearms, certain medications);
· reporting by media in a responsible way;
· introducing alcohol policies to reduce the harmful use of alcohol;
· early identification, treatment and care of people with mental and substance use disorders, chronic pain and acute emotional distress;
· training of non-specialized health workers in the assessment and management of suicidal behaviour;
· follow-up care for people who attempted suicide and provision of community support.
Challenges and obstacles
Stigma and taboo
Stigma, particularly surrounding mental disorders and suicide, means many people thinking of taking their own life or who have attempted suicide are not seeking help and are therefore not getting the help they need. The prevention of suicide has not been adequately addressed due to a lack of awareness of suicide as a major public health problem and the taboo in many societies to openly discuss it. To date, only a few countries have included suicide prevention among their health priorities and only 28 countries report having a national suicide prevention strategy.
Raising community awareness and breaking down the taboo is important for countries to make progress in preventing suicide.