Every year, almost one million people die by suicide around the world. Young people are increasingly vulnerable to suicidal behaviours. Worldwide, suicide is one of the three leading causes of death among those in the most economically productive age group (15-44 years), and the second leading cause of death in the 15-19 years age group.
However, suicide is largely preventable. Unlike for many other health issues, the tools to significantly reduce the most tragic loss of life by suicide are available. With collective action to acknowledge and address this serious problem, as well as commitment to effective interventions, supported by political will and resources, preventing suicide globally is within reach.
Although suicide continues to remain a serious problem in high income countries, it is the low and middle income countries that bear the larger part of the global suicide burden. Services in those countries are scarce and when they do exist, they are difficult to access and are under-resourced.
Risk factors for suicide include mental and physical illness, alcohol or drug abuse, chronic illness, acute emotional distress, violence, a sudden and major change in an individual’s life, such as loss of employment, separation from a partner, or other adverse events, or, in many cases, a combination of these factors.
While factors contributing to suicide can vary among specific demographic and population groups, it is important to address the specific underlying causes of suicide and develop action plans to suit each country and its communities. There is a crucial need of a framework that provides the strategies needed to achieve this goal.
Importantly, it is a national suicide prevention strategy that allows communities to come together, and begin to tackle suicide and the issues specific to their needs without stigmatisation.
A national suicide prevention strategy should be developed through a stepwise approach. Such a strategy acknowledges, as a first step, that suicide is a major problem and that it is preventable.
The lack of resources — human or financial — can no longer remain an acceptable justification for not developing or implementing a national suicide prevention strategy. All should come forward to prevent suicide and the ripple effect it has on the lives of individuals, families and communities.
-With World Health Organisation input