The World Health Organisation has advised countries to include suicide prevention strategies in their national health and education programmes. WHO, in a statement posted on its website in commemoration of the World Suicide Prevention Day held on Tuesday, decried a situation whereby, at least one person died from suicide globally every 40 seconds.
It acknowledged the progress in suicide prevention activities in some countries, but warned that much more was needed. WHO Director-General, Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, said the number of countries with national suicide prevention strategies had increased in five years since the publication of the organisation’s first global report on suicide.
“But the total number of countries with strategies, at just 38, is still far too few and governments need to commit to establishing them. In spite of the progress, one person still dies every 40 seconds from suicide. Every death is a tragedy for family, friends, and colleagues, yet suicides are preventable.
“We call on all countries to incorporate proven suicide prevention strategies into national health and education programmes in a sustainable way,” Ghebreyesus said.
According to WHO, suicide rate is highest in high-income countries, and is the second leading cause of death among young people. “The global age-standardised suicide rate  for 2016  was 10.5 per 100 000. Rates varied widely, however, between countries, from 5 suicide deaths per 100 000, to more than 30 per 100 000.
“While 79 per cent of the world’s suicides occurred in low- and middle-income countries, high-income countries had the highest rate, at 11.5 per 100 000. “Nearly three times as many men as women die by suicide in high-income countries, in contrast to low- and middle-income countries, where the rate is more equal,” the WHO said.
It described suicide as the second leading cause of death among young people aged 15 to 29 years, after road injury. “Among teenagers aged 15 to 19 years, suicide was the second leading cause of death among girls (after maternal conditions) and the third leading cause of death in boys (after road injury and interpersonal violence).
“The most common methods of suicide are hanging, pesticide self-poisoning, and firearms. Key interventions that have shown success in reducing suicides are restricting access to means; educating the media on responsible reporting of suicide,” it said.
The WHO advocated the implementing of programmes among young people to build life skills that enable them to cope with life stresses, an early identification, management and follow-up of people at risk of suicide. It also recommended pesticide regulation as an under-used but highly effective strategy.
“The intervention that has the most imminent potential to bring down the number of suicides is restricting access to pesticides that are used for self-poisoning. “The high toxicity of many pesticides means that such suicide attempts often lead to death, particularly in situations where there is no antidote or where there are no medical facilities nearby,” it said.
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