World Suicide Prevention Day (WSPD) was established in 2003 by the International Association for Suicide Prevention in conjunction with the World Health Organization (WHO). The 10th of September each year focuses attention on the issue, reduces stigma and raises awareness among organizations, government, and the public, giving a singular message that suicide can be prevented.
Suicide is A Leading Cause of Death.
Suicide is death caused by injuring oneself with the intent to die. A suicide attempt is when someone harms themselves with any intent to end their life, but they do not die as a result of their actions.
Suicide is connected to other forms of injury and violence. For example, people who have experienced violence, including child abuse, bullying, or sexual violence have a higher suicide risk. Being connected to family and community support and having easy access to health care can decrease suicidal thoughts and behaviors.
Warning Signs for Suicide
Some behaviors may indicate that a person is at immediate risk for suicide such as talking about wanting to die or to kill oneself, looking for a way to kill oneself, such as searching online or obtaining a gun, talking about feeling hopeless or having no reason to live.
Other behaviors may also indicate a serious risk—especially if the behavior is new; has increased; and/or seems related to a painful event, loss, or change. As talking about feeling trapped or in unbearable pain, talking about being a burden to others, increasing the use of alcohol or drugs, acting anxious or agitated; behaving recklessly, sleeping too little or too much, withdrawing or feeling isolated, showing rage or talking about seeking revenge and displaying extreme mood swings.
A Serious Public Health Problem
An estimated 703,000 people a year take their life around the world. Suicide is a global phenomenon and occurs throughout the lifespan; in fact, 77% of suicides occurred in low- and middle-income countries in 2019. Suicide accounted for 1.3% of all deaths worldwide, making it the 17th leading cause of death in 2019. Suicide is the fourth leading cause of death among 15-19 year-olds.
For every suicide, there are likely 20 other people making a suicide attempt and many more have serious thoughts of suicide. Millions of people suffer intense grief or are otherwise profoundly impacted by suicidal behaviors.
Each suicidal death is a public health concern with a profound impact on those around them. By raising awareness, reducing the stigma around suicide, and encouraging well-informed action, we can reduce instances of suicide around the world.
Risk factors are characteristics of a person or his or her environment that increase the likelihood that he or she will die by suicide (i.e., suicide risk). While the link between suicide and mental disorders (in particular, depression and alcohol use disorders) is well established in high-income countries, 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.
Many factors contribute to suicide risk. Suicide is rarely caused by a single circumstance or event. Instead, a range of factors—at the individual, relationship, community, and societal levels—can increase risk. These risk factors are situations or problems that can increase the possibility that a person will attempt suicide.
Personal Factors for Suicide
Personal factors for suicide include previous suicide attempt, history of depression and other mental illnesses, serious illness such as chronic pain, criminal/legal problems, job/financial problems or loss, impulsive or aggressive tendencies, substance misuse, current or prior history of adverse childhood experiences, sense of hopelessness and violence victimization.
By far the strongest risk factor for suicide is a previous suicide attempt. A nonfatal suicide attempt is the strongest known clinical predictor of eventual suicide. Suicide risk among self-harm patients is hundreds of times higher than in the general population. It is often estimated that about 10–15% of people who attempt suicide eventually die by suicide. The mortality risk is highest during the first months and years after the attempt. Almost 1% of individuals who attempt suicide will die by suicide if the attempt is repeated within one year.
Addiction Often Leads to Suicide
Persons addicted to alcohol and drugs are at 5–10 times higher risk for suicide as compared to the general population. Substance abuse is the second-highest risk factor for suicide.
Depression is a risk factor, and the rate of major depression among those with substance abuse disorders is two to four times higher than the general population. Most often, they become overwhelmed with bad emotions like hopelessness, unhappiness, regret, defeat or loneliness and feel like they’ll never overcome it. They become convinced that suicide is the only way out.
Relationship Risk Factors
Harmful or hurtful experiences within relationships contribute to suicide risk. These factors include bullying, family/loved one’s history of suicide, loss of relationships, high conflict or violent relationships and social isolation.
Bullying and Suicide
Several recent studies have found an association between bullying and suicide-related behaviors and one study found evidence consistent with a causal link, at least for girls.
Bullying is a significant public health problem because it is prevalent and harmful. Verbal bullying is generally more prevalent than physical or cyber-bullying. For young people involved in bullying in any capacity—youth who bully others, who are bullied, or who both bully and are bullied, this involvement is correlated with poor mental and physical health and engagement in other risk behaviors.
Youth who are bullied are more likely to be depressed or anxious, have lower academic achievement, report feeling like they do not belong at school , have poorer social and emotional adjustment, greater difficulty making friends, poorer relationships with classmates and greater loneliness .
Methods of Suicide
It is estimated that around 20% 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. Knowledge of the most commonly used suicide methods is important to devise prevention strategies which have shown to be effective, such as restriction of access to means of suicide.
Prevention and Control
Suicides are preventable. limit access to the means of suicide (e.g. pesticides, firearms and certain medications. Interact with the media for responsible reporting of suicide. Foster socio-emotional life skills in adolescents. Early identify, assess, manage and follow up anyone who is affected by suicidal behaviors.
These need to go hand-in-hand with the following foundational pillars: situation analysis, multisectoral collaboration, awareness raising, capacity building, financing, surveillance and monitoring and evaluation.
Suicide prevention efforts require coordination and collaboration among multiple sectors of society, including the health sector and other sectors such as education, labor, agriculture, business, justice, law, defence, politics, and the media. These efforts must be comprehensive and integrated as no single approach alone can make an impact on an issue as complex as suicide.