WORLD Suicide Prevention Day (WSPD), celebrated annually on 10 September, is organised by the International Association for Suicide Prevention (IASP) and endorsed by the World Health Organization (WHO). The event represents a global commitment to focus attention on suicide prevention.
The theme of WSPD 2023, 'Creating hope through action', reflects the need for collective action to address this urgent public health issue. All of us — family members, friends, co-workers, community members, educators, religious leaders, health-care professionals, political officials, and governments — can take action to prevent suicide in the region.
The overall goal of this day is to raise awareness about suicide prevention worldwide. Objectives include promoting stakeholder collaboration and self-empowerment to address self-harm and suicide through preventative action.
These can be achieved through capacity building of health-care providers and other relevant actors, positive and informative messaging aimed at the general population and at-risk groups such as young people, and facilitating an open discussion on mental health at home, at school, in the workplace, etc. Those contemplating or affected by suicide are also encouraged to share their stories and seek professional help.
The suicide mortality rate in the region of the Americas has been increasing while decreasing in all other WHO regions; highlighting the urgent need to make suicide prevention a public health priority.
A high burden of mental health conditions, low treatment coverage, and rising suicide rates make mental health a serious public health problem in the region of the Americas. The COVID-19 pandemic has worsened the situation by increasing the prevalence of mental health conditions and disrupting essential mental health services. Other humanitarian emergencies, including migration, worsened by the global climate crisis, pose a significant threat to mental health.
Recent data show that each year, nearly 100,000 people die by suicide in the region (an age-adjusted rate of 9 per 100,000 population), with significant variability among countries. Between 2000 and 2019, the regional suicide rate increased by 17 per cent, making the Americas the only WHO region where suicide is rising.
Suicides and suicide attempts have a ripple effect that impacts not only individuals but also families, communities, and societies. Associated risk factors for suicide, such as job or financial loss, trauma or abuse, mental and substance use disorders, and barriers to accessing health care. The sex difference in suicide mortality is a culture-bound phenomenon, meaning that cultural expectations about gender and suicide strongly determine both its existence and magnitude. Furthermore, the COVID-19 pandemic has worsened the situation by increasing the prevalence of mental health conditions and disrupting essential mental health services. Other humanitarian emergencies, including migration, worsened by the global climate crisis, pose a significant threat to mental health.
Suicide can be prevented!
Key evidence-based suicide prevention measures include restricting access to means for suicide (eg: firearms, pesticides, etc), mental health and alcohol reduction policies, and promoting responsible media reporting on suicide. Social stigma and a lack of awareness remain major barriers to help-seeking for suicide, highlighting the need for mental health literacy and anti-stigma campaigns.