The World Health Organization (WHO) has issued its first report on suicide prevention to increase awareness of suicide and suicide attempts, as well as urge governments to develop comprehensive suicide prevention strategies. The report stems from the Mental Health Action Plan of the WHO in May 2013, with a goal of reducing suicide rates worldwide by 10% by the year 2020.

It is estimated that 804,000 suicide deaths occurred globally in 2012, accounting for 1.4% of death worldwide as the 15th leading cause of death. However, due to cultural and legal factors in certain countries, it is highly likely that these deaths were underreported or misclassified as another cause of death such as accidental death. Suicides account for 50% of all violent deaths in men and 71% in women worldwide, with the highest rates seen in men and women ≥70 years of age. While the most common methods are pesticide injection, hanging, and firearms, these vary based on population groups.

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The report also outlines universal, selective, and indicated strategies necessary to reduce risk factors and rates of suicide including:

  • Creation of national suicide prevention strategies that include surveillance, means restriction (eg, pesticides, firearms, installing barriers on bridges), media guidelines, stigma reduction, increasing public awareness, gatekeeper training, crisis intervention services, and postvention services;
  • Inclusion of education, healthcare, employment, social welcome, and the court system tailored to each country’s cultural and social needs based on best practices and evidence-based interventions;
  • Policies to reduce harmful use of alcohol;
  • Awareness campaigns to reduce stigma related to mental health disorders and help-seeking for suicide;
  • Assessment and management of mental and substance use disorders by health workers, with a focus on emergency care staff; and
  • Follow-up care by health workers for individuals following a suicide attempt to decrease the risk of a second attempt.

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Image credit: WHO