WHO issues first report on suicide prevention

Posted by Kate Barth on October 1, 2014

Suicide stands as an enormous, and too often under-targeted, public health problem throughout the world. According to the World Health Organization’s recently issued a report on suicide, Preventing Suicide: a Global Imperative, an estimated 804,000 deaths from suicide occurred worldwide in 2012. This is a problem which pervades both and low-income countries, with suicides accounting for 50% of all violent deaths in men and 71% in women, globally. Of course, as Preventing Suicide aptly points out, the actual numbers of death from suicide may be even larger as it is likely that, particularly in countries where suicide is criminalized, suicide statistics are often under-reported. Moreover, the statistics regarding death from suicides do not consider failed suicide attempts, so the problem of suicide is even more pervasive than even the above numbers suggest.

The report suggests that should be addressed as a priority public health issue and that smart universal, selective and indicated policies addressing risk factors can decrease the high rates of suicide. It advocates that countries establish national prevention strategies which comprehensively include “surveillance, means restriction, media guidelines, stigma reduction and raising of public awareness as well as training for health workers, educators, police and other gatekeepers.” (page 8). Of course, despite the commonality of the problem of suicide throughout the world, Preventing Suicide notes that the vulnerable groups and methods of suicide vary drastically and advises policy makers to consider their specific context when crafting smart policy.

To see the full text of the report, click here.

Kate Barth is a Legal Officer at Lawyers Collective.