The World Health Organisation has expressed its displeasure over the alarming rate of suicide-related deaths globally, as its first global report on suicide prevention claims that over 800,000 people die by suicide every year – around one person every 40 seconds.
Suicide, though a global phenomenon, has its strongholds in low and middle-income countries where as much as 75 percent of it occur especially among young adults and elderly women when compared to their counterparts in high-income countries.
While pesticide, poisoning, hanging and firearms are among the most common methods of suicide globally, evidence from Australia, Canada, Japan, New Zealand, the United States and a number of European countries reveals that limiting access to these can help prevent people dying by suicide.
In a statement released to BusinessDay, the very disturbed WHO affirmed that a noble commitment by national governments to the establishment and implementation of a coordinated plan of action can visibly help tame the surging numbers.
However, currently, only 28 countries are known to have national suicide prevention strategies.
“This report is a call for action to address a large public health problem which has been shrouded in taboo for far too long,” Margaret Chan, director-general WHO, was quoted as saying in the statement.
Acknowledging the need to curb the increasing trend, WHO recommends that countries should involve a range of government departments in developing a comprehensive coordinated response.
“High-level commitment is needed not just within the health sector, but also within education, employment, social welfare and judicial departments,” the statement added.
“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,” Alexandra Fleischmann, a scientist in the Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse at WHO, enthused.
Some of the effective measures prescribed by the international health agency include responsible reporting of suicide in the media, such as avoiding language that sensationalises suicide and avoiding explicit description of methods used, and early identification and management of mental and substance-use disorders in communities and by health workers in particular.
WHO further noted that it is working towards a global target of reducing the numbers with its Mental Health Action Plan 2013-2020, where member states have committed themselves to work towards the global target of reducing the suicide rate in countries by 10 percent come 2020.