WHO calls for action to reduce global suicide rate of 800,000 a year

LONDON Thu Sep 4, 2014 8:31am EDT

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LONDON (Reuters) - More than 800,000 people each year worldwide commit suicide – around one person every 40 seconds - with many using poisoning, hanging or shooting to end their own lives, the World Health Organization (WHO) said on Thursday.

In its first global report on suicide prevention, the United Nations health agency said some 75 percent of suicides are among people from poor or middle-income countries and called for more to be done to reduce access to common means of suicide.

The report found that suicides take place all over the world and at almost any age. Globally, suicide rates are highest in people aged 70 and over, but in some countries, the highest rates are found among the young.

In the 15 to 29-year age group, suicide is the second leading cause of death globally.

The WHO's director general Margaret Chan said the report was a "call for action to address a large public health problem which has been shrouded in taboo for far too long."

Pesticide poisoning, hanging and firearms are among the most common methods of suicide globally, the report said, and evidence from Australia, Canada, Japan, New Zealand, the United States and Europe shows that restricting access to these means can help to stop people from committing suicide.

Governments should also set up national prevention plans, the report said, noting that currently only 28 countries are known to have such strategies.

The report found that in general, more men die by suicide than women. In richer countries, three times as many men kill themselves as women, and men aged 50 and over are particularly vulnerable.

In poor and middle-income countries, young people and elderly women have higher rates of suicide than their counterparts in wealthy nations, the report found. And women over 70 are more than twice as likely to commit suicide than women aged between 15 and 29.

"No matter where a country currently stands in suicide prevention, effective measures can be taken, even just starting at local level and on a small scale," said Alexandra Fleischmann, a scientist at the WHO's department of mental health and substance abuse.

Other preventative measures include encouraging responsible reporting of suicide in the media, such as avoiding language that sensationalizes suicide.

Early identification and management of people with mental illness and drug and other substance abusers is also important.

"Follow-up care by health workers through regular contact, including by phone or home visits, for people who have attempted suicide, together with provision of community support, are essential, because people who have already attempted suicide are at the greatest risk of trying again," the report said.

The WHO report was published ahead of world suicide prevention day on September 10.

(Editing by Raissa Kasolowsky)

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Comments (2)
finman88 wrote:
This report comes just a little too late for the likes of Robin Williams! I still don’t know why the government wants to totally prevent suicide. It is like they want to force you to stay alive so they can continue collecting taxes off of you!

Sep 04, 2014 9:51am EDT  --  Report as abuse
Dynamic_Youth wrote:
The poet Bharati made use of his poetic license fully and roared to destroy the world if a single person had to go without meals. If 800000 persons decide to spit on our face and leave us every year, what are we going to do?

If 800000 persons hate to live in this world and voluntarily end their life every year, if a person leaves this world with contempt every 40 seconds, what kind of the world we have developed?

We brag ad nauseam about our humankind, our religion and spiritualism, greatness of our intellect, elaborate legal systems, power of discrimination that supposedly separates us from the animals, and so many other things.

Shall we, human beings, ever measure up to the tall claims we have been making all along as ‘social animals’; Only the ‘animal’ part seems to dominate.

Shall we conveniently claim that they are all cowards; they are not as bold as we are, and in a way, we should be happy for those weaklings have left once for all? Or, is there anything else for us to do?

This is a recurrent loss of human resources. After I started this and before you could read it, many persons have parted company with us. Does it not give a bad name to all of us?

I am hurt, very deeply hurt. I have always been engaged in spreading a value system meant for Universal Harmony, happiness and Global Peace. The immensity of this task suddenly threatens to overwhelm me! I am sure, you may not think identically but it cannot be much different.

As lone individuals, we may not be able to suggest a remedy; but as a group something should be possible. No worldly problem can be too big for the collective wisdom of the humankind; i.e. if only sincere efforts are made.

Let us give it some thought. When we all do it, vigorously enough, the solution will definitely appear.

Sep 04, 2014 3:09pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
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