Suicide kills one person every 40 seconds: WHO

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WARNING: This article contains explicit information related to suicide and mental health that may not be suitable for all audience members. Discretion is advised.

One person dies by suicide every 40 seconds, according to a new report by the World Health Organization (WHO).

The report, released Monday, also revealed that more people die by suicide than in war every year. Hanging, poisoning and shooting are the most common methods.

The WHO urged governments to adopt suicide prevention plans to help people cope with stress and to reduce access to suicide means.

“Suicide is a global public health issue. All ages, sexes and regions of the world are affected (and) each loss is one too many,” the report said.

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Suicide was the second leading cause of death among young people aged between 15 and 29, second only to road injury.

Among girls aged 15 to 19, it was the second biggest killer after maternal conditions. In teenage boys, suicide ranked third behind road injury and interpersonal violence.

Overall, close to 800,000 people die by suicide every year around the world — more than those killed by malaria, breast cancer or homicide, the WHO said.

Global rates have fallen in recent years — there was a 9.8 per cent decrease between 2010 and 2016 — but declines were patchy. In the WHO’s Americas region, for example, rates rose by six per cent between 2010 and 2016.

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The report also found that nearly three times as many men as women die by suicide in wealthy countries, in contrast to low- and middle-income countries, where the rates are more equal.

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“Suicides are preventable,” said the WHO’s director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus. “We call on all countries to incorporate proven suicide prevention strategies into national health and education programs.”

Reducing numbers worldwide

The WHO said restricting access to pesticides was one of the most effective ways of reducing suicide numbers swiftly.

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Pesticides are commonly used and usually result in death because they are so toxic, have no antidotes and are often used in remote areas where there is no nearby medical help.

The WHO pointed to studies in Sri Lanka, where bans on pesticides have led to a 70 per cent drop in suicides and an estimated 93,000 lives saved between 1995 and 2015.

Organizations like the Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA) want to encourage people struggling with anxiety, depression and other mental health issues to speak up.

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“It’s far too often we are tragically impacted by suicide,” Marion Cooper of the CMHA previously told Global News. “The importance of talking about suicide and lifting up the shame and secrecy related to suicide is critically important.

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“Every day needs to be about creating space that feels safe for everybody to talk openly and honestly about how they’re feeling.”

Here are four simple steps the CMHA is spreading as a guide to use when in doubt, for neighbours, workmates, friends or family to help prevent suicide.

  • A- Ask: ask how they’re doing
  • L- Listen: listen to what they say
  • E- Encourage: encourage support and action
  • C- Check in: keep in touch with where they’re at

Cooper encourages anyone struggling with their mental health, or who knows someone who may be at risk, to look at resources that can make a difference. The CMHA’s Canadian Centre for Excellence called the Centre for Suicide Prevention is a place people can go online to learn more about suicide.

If you or someone you know is in crisis and needs help, resources are available. In case of an emergency, please call 911 for immediate help.

The Canadian Association for Suicide PreventionDepression Hurts and Kids Help Phone 1-800-668-6868 all offer ways of getting help if you, or someone you know, may be suffering from mental health issues.

— With files from Kate Kelland, Reuters and Global News


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