Preventing suicide: A global imperative

2014_report_publicationMore than 800 000 people die by suicide every year, according to WHO’s first global report on suicide prevention, published today. Some 75% of suicides occur in low- and middle-income countries. Globally, suicide rates are highest in people aged 70 years and over. In some countries, however, the highest rates are found among the young. Notably, suicide is the second leading cause of death in 15-29 year-olds globally.

Generally, more men die by suicide than women. In richer countries, three times as many men die by suicide than women. Men aged 50 years and over are particularly vulnerable. In low- and middle-income countries, young adults and elderly women have higher rates of suicide than their counterparts in high-income countries. Women over 70 years old are more than twice as likely to die by suicide than women aged 15-29 years.

My team collaborated closely with the WHO Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse in the preparation of this report, which drew heavily on our global health statistics for causes of death (http://www.who.int/gho/en/)

Among the countries with the highest per-capita suicide rates in 2012 are South Korea, Hungary, Japan, Russia and India. Reducing access to means of suicide is one way to reduce deaths. Other effective measures include responsible reporting of suicide in the media and early identification and management of mental and substance use disorders.

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