Thursday 10 October is World Mental Health Day and this year the focus is suicide prevention. It is estimated that 800,000 people take their lives each year globally, equating to one person every 40 seconds . In recognition of this statistic, it is hoped that people will be encouraged to take “40 seconds of action” on 10 October to improve awareness of suicide, reduce stigma and let those who are struggling know they are not alone.
What makes someone take their own life?
In general, people considering suicide do not want to die. They are in extreme psychological pain and their perspective has become so narrowed that they believe the only way of ending the pain is by killing themselves. People considering suicide often feel an extreme lack of connection to those around them or to society in general, feel isolated and have a strong sense that they are a burden to others .
What is the impact?
- Suicide occurs in all age groups.
- It is the second most common cause of death among young people aged 15–29 years.
- For every person who takes their own life, there may be more than 20 others attempting to do so.
- For each suicide, approximately 135 family members, friends and acquaintances are profoundly affected. This amounts to 108 million people per year who are significantly affected by suicide .
Who is at risk?
The strongest risk factor for suicide is a previous suicide attempt. Other groups at risk are :
- People with mental health conditions
- People who abuse alcohol or drugs
- People experiencing stressful life events (relationship break-ups, financial problems, chronic pain and illness)
- People going through times of crisis (conflict, disaster, violence, abuse and loss
- People who experience discrimination in their communities
What can we do?
At a government level
Both mental health and suicide are still heavily stigmatised, and in some countries suicide acts are still classed as criminal offences. This can significantly hinder people in crisis from seeking help .
It is hoped that World Mental Health Day 2019 and its focus on suicide prevention will attract the attention of governments, so that the issue can be given higher priority in public health agendas around the world . The key to effective global suicide prevention is collaboration; the member states of the World Health Organization have pledged to reduce the suicide rate by 10% by 2020 .
At an individual level
Individually, our humanity and empathy are all that is required to help someone at risk. Actively listening and providing a caring presence can refute deep-seated feelings in suicidal people, making them realise that they are not alone and that others do care if they live or die .
Today, be inspired to take 40 seconds of action to show that you care. Strike up a conversation with someone you are worried about or offer your support to someone you know is having a tough time. Or, why not take to social media to help highlight the issues surrounding mental health and suicide?
To find more inspiring ideas for your own “40 seconds of action,” please visit https://www.who.int/news-room/events/detail/2019/10/10/default-calendar/world-mental-health-day-2019-focus-on-suicide-prevention.
- World Health Organisation. Key facts Suicide 2 September 2019
- Centre for Suicide Prevention. A caring conversation: What suicide prevention can look like. Available at: https://www.suicideinfo.ca/resource/caring-conversation-suicide-prevention/. Accessed October 2019.
- International Association for Suicide Prevention. Suicide awareness and prevention. Available at: https://wfmh.global/wp-content/uploads/WFMH-WMHD-Suicide-Prevention-and-Awareness-Article.pdf. Accessed October 2019.
- World Federation for Mental Health. World Mental Health
Day 2019: Mental health promotion and suicide prevention. Available at: https://wfmh.global/world-mental-health-day-2019/. Accessed October 2019.
- Mishara BL and Weisstub DN. The legal status of suicide: A global review. Int J Law Psychiatry 2016; 44: 54–74.
- World Health Organization. Live life: Preventing suicide. Available at: https://www.who.int/docs/default-source/mental-health/suicide/live-life-brochure.pdf?sfvrsn=6ea28a12_2. Accessed October 2019.