The focus of World Suicide Prevention Day this year is on suicide prevention from youth to old age.
This theme has been adopted to emphasize that people of all ages commit suicide and that actions to prevent suicide included in national responses should meet the needs of different age groups.
World Suicide Prevention Day is an opportunity for people worldwide to unite in commitment and action to ensure that suicides are prevented, that people living with mental illness receive adequate treatment, that community-based care and close follow-up are available to people who attempt suicide, that access to common methods of suicides is restricted, and that media reports of suicides are more measured.
Today, too many people of all ages needlessly take their own lives. On average, almost 3000 people commit suicide every day. Every 30 seconds, the loss of a person who killed themselves shatters the lives of family and friends. For every person who completes a suicide, 20 or more may attempt suicide. For family and friends affected by suicide or attempted suicide, the emotional impact may last for many years.
There is a growing awareness of suicide as a major public health problem, even though there is a taboo in many societies against discussing it openly. Worldwide, suicide rates have increased by 60 percent over the last 50 years, and the increase has been particularly marked in developing countries. Although reported suicide is now among the three leading global causes of death among young people aged 15-34 years, the majority of suicides are reported in adults and older adults (60 years and older).
The World Health Organization (WHO) supports suicide prevention initiatives around the world which address suicide in people of all ages. WHO works with governments and other partners such as the International Association for Suicide Prevention to ensure that suicide is no longer seen as a taboo or an acceptable result of personal or social crises, but as a health condition influenced by psycho-social, cultural and environmental risk factors which can be prevented through national responses which address the main local risk factors for suicide.
The WHO's role is to build political commitment and leadership to develop national responses to prevent suicide, strengthen national planning capacity to build the core building blocks of such a national response, and build the national capacities to implement these responses.
If governments commit to defining national responses to prevent suicide among all ages, huge progress can be made. If we build networks and alliances to promote common approaches which support governments in planning and implementing their national responses, we will find that suicide is a huge but largely preventable public health problem.