WHO updates fact sheet on Suicide (28 August 2017)

The World Health Organization (WHO) has updated its fact sheet on suicide.

Key Messages:

Close to 800 000 people die due to suicide every year.

Suicide is the second leading cause of death among 15–29-year-olds.

78% of global suicides occur in low- and middle-income countries.

For every suicide there are many more people who attempt suicide every year.

 

Risk Factors:

Mental disorders (in particular, depression and alcohol use disorders)

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.

Methods of suicide:

Around 30% of global suicides are due to pesticide self-poisoning, most of which occur in rural agricultural areas in low- and middle-income countries.

Other common methods of suicide are hanging and firearms.

Prevention and Control:

Measures 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

There is a stigma surrounding mental disorders and suicide, so 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.

In many societies it is taboo to openly discuss suicide. This results in a lack of awareness about suicide as a major public health problem.

Quality of data

Only 60 Member States have good-quality vital registration data that can be used directly to estimate suicide rates.

Useful Links:

Link to the updated fact sheet:

http://who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/fs398/en/

Link to WHO Global Health Observatory data on suicide rates:

http://who.int/gho/mental_health/suicide_rates/en/

Link to WHO page on suicide prevention:

http://who.int/mental_health/suicide-prevention/en/

Link to resources on suicide prevention (multiple languages):

http://who.int/mental_health/resources/preventingsuicide/en/

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