SUICIDE PREVENTION DAY: Eliminate stigma and take care of mental health

World Suicide Prevention Day is commemorated on September 10. The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention call suicide a “growing public health problem”.


The statistics are worrying. More than 700,000 people kill themselves each year, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). In 2019, more than 97 thousand people died by suicide in the Region of the Americas. That same year, suicide was the 10th leading cause of death in the United States and the second leading cause of death among young people between the ages of 10 and 34.


All ages, races and economic levels are at risk. 77% of all suicides occur in low- to middle-income countries, according to the WHO. Young people may be the most vulnerable: Suicide is the fourth leading cause of death among 15-19 year olds worldwide.


For every person who has died by suicide, many more people think or try to kill themselves. In 2019, 12 million American adults seriously considered suicide; 3.5 million planned a suicide attempt and 1.4 million tried to kill themselves.


What goals does the commemoration of this day have?


The overall goal of this day is to raise awareness about suicide prevention worldwide.


The specific objectives include promoting stakeholder collaboration and self-empowerment to address self-harm and suicide through preventative action. These can be achieved through capacity building of healthcare providers and other relevant actors, positive and informative messaging aimed at the general population and at-risk groups such as young people, and facilitating open discussion on mental health at home, at school, in the workplace. Those contemplating or affected by suicide are also encouraged to share their stories and seek professional help.


Create hope through action


The World Suicide Prevention Day theme for this year is “Creating hope through action”. That reflects the need for collective action to address this urgent public health issue. All of us, whether we are family members, friends, co-workers, educators, healthcare professionals or authorities, can take action to prevent suicide in our immediate environment.


Suicides and suicide attempts have a ripple effect that impacts not only individuals, but also families, communities and societies.


Associated risk factors for suicide, such as job or financial loss, trauma or abuse, mental and substance use disorders, and barriers to accessing health care, have been further amplified by COVID-19. One year after the pandemic’s onset, more than half of people surveyed by the Pan American Health Organization in Chile, Brazil, Peru and Canada reported that their mental health had gotten worse.


Prevention measures


Key evidence-based suicide prevention measures include restricting access to means for suicide (e.g. firearms, pesticides, etc.), mental health and alcohol reduction policies, and promoting responsible media reporting on suicide.


Social stigma and a lack of awareness remain major barriers to help-seeking for suicide, highlighting the need for mental health literacy and anti-stigma campaigns.


By: Juan Carlos Ugarelli

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