World Mental Health Day: Focus on Suicide Prevention

World Mental Health Day: Focus on Suicide Prevention

Author -  Dr. Kaushik Bharati, MSc, PhD, FRSPH (London)
Medically Reviewed by 
The Medindia Medical Review Team on October 9, 2019 at 5:34 PM
  • World Mental Health Day will be observed on Thursday 10th October, 2019
  • Its main objective is to raise awareness about the importance of mental health and wellbeing
  • This year’s theme focuses on promoting mental health to prevent suicides

World Mental Health Day is observed on 10th October every year to create global awareness about mental illnesses and highlight the importance of preventive measures to tackle the disease. World Mental Health Day provides an opportunity for individuals, organizations, and other stakeholders to come together and share their experiences on mental health issues and what needs to be done to make mental healthcare for 'all' a reality.

World Mental Health Day is celebrated in over 100 countries through local, regional, and national events and activities. It is organized by the World Federation for Mental Health (WFMH), Occoquan, Virginia, USA, with support from the World Health Organization (WHO), Geneva, Switzerland. This year besides WHO, two other organizations are also providing support, namely, the International Association for Suicide Prevention (IASP), Washington DC, USA and United for Global Mental Health, London, UK.

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The awareness color for World Mental Health Day is 'Green'. Hence, as a part of the celebrations, people from around the world will be wearing 'Green', such as green colored T-shirts, caps, ribbons, and lapel pins to show their support for people suffering from mental illnesses.

The Instagram hashtag for World Mental Health Day is #worldmentalhealthday. So, messages, infographics, stories, and news related to mental health can be shared instantly with friends, loved ones and the larger global community.

Importance of Mental Health

Mental health and wellbeing is just as important as physical health and needs to be taken care of, whether mental illness is present or not. Mental wellbeing refers to how an individual feels and how well he/she can cope with day-to-day life. Mental health problems affect around 12 percent of the world's population, which translates into 450 million or one in every four individuals. Mental illnesses can range from common problems such as anxiety and depression to rarer ones, such as bipolar disorder and schizophrenia, among many others.

History of World Mental Health Day

World Mental Health Day was established on 10th October, 1992 by the World Federation for Mental Health (WFMH), under the leadership of the then Deputy Secretary General of WFMH, Richard Hunter. Till 1994, there was no theme for World Mental Health Day. In that year, the then Secretary General Eugene Brody suggested that each year the celebrations should have a specific theme. The first theme in 1994 was 'Improving the Quality of Mental Health Services throughout the World.'

World Mental Health Day Theme 2019: Focus on 'Suicide Prevention'

The 2019 World Mental Health Day theme is 'Mental Health Promotion and Suicide Prevention.' The primary objective of making suicide prevention the theme for 2019 is to attract the attention of governments so that the issue of mental health is prioritized in public health agendas in all countries around the world.

Suicide: Facts & Figures

  • 800,000 people die by suicide annually worldwide
  • Every 40 seconds someone dies by suicide
  • Suicide is the second leading cause of death among 15-29 year-olds
  • For every person who dies by suicide, more than 20 others attempt suicide
  • A prior suicide attempt is the highest risk factor for further suicide attempts
  • 79 percent of suicides occur in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs)
  • Hanging, shooting, and ingestion of pesticides are the most common methods of suicide

Suicide: Implications & Complications

David Émile Durkheim, the noted French sociologist, gave the best definition of suicide as: "A term applied to all cases of death resulting directly or indirectly from a positive or negative act of the victim himself, which he knows will produce this result."

Suicidal behavior has existed since time immemorial. Suicide has been an active area of study for centuries in many disciplines, including Medicine, Psychology, Sociology, Bioethics, Law, and even Religion and Philosophy. In recent decades, the incidence of suicide has increased dramatically across the world due to the interplay of various complex factors and currently has reached alarming levels. Although it is often believed that suicide is confined only to adults, it is also prevalent in children and adolescents, resulting from violence, bullying, and sexual abuse.

Since suicidal behavior has become a global public health problem, its prevention requires a multi-pronged approach, involving various stakeholders such as psychiatrists, psychologists, lawyers, decision-makers, educationists, mental health counselors, policymakers, scientific organizations, and national health authorities. Moreover, the role of the print and electronic media is no less important, as the media plays a vital role in creating public awareness and shaping public opinion.

Challenges in Preventing Suicides

The major challenges for preventing suicides are stigma and taboo, as well as the lack of quality data on which preventive strategies can be based. These are briefly discussed below:
  • Stigma and Taboo: Mental disorders are associated with stigma in many societies. Hence, people suffering from mental problems hesitate to open up and talk about their condition, which is still considered to be a taboo in many parts of the globe. As a result, treatment-seeking behavior is low among psychiatric patients, which often leads to suicides. Hence, there is an urgent need to break-down the taboo surrounding mental illnesses in order to make progress in developing strategies to prevent suicides
  • Lack of Quality Data: There is a severe lack of high-quality data on suicide and suicide attempts, with only 80 countries having good-quality suicide registries. Hence, there is a need for improved surveillance and monitoring of suicide and suicide attempts in order to implement preventive strategies

WHO Initiatives Promoting Mental Health

The World Health Organization (WHO) aims to prevent suicides by promoting overall mental health. This has resulted in several initiatives, which are indicated below:
  • WHO World Suicide Report: This report entitled 'Preventing Suicide: A Global Imperative' was first published in 2014. This report highlights the public health significance of suicide in order to make suicide prevention a global priority
  • WHO Mental Health Gap Action Program (mhGAP): Suicide has also been prioritized in this program, which was launched in 2008. This initiative provides evidence-based guidance on ways to prevent mental health problems by addressing the gaps in knowledge
  • WHO Mental Health Action Plan (2013-2020): This initiative was adopted by the 66th World Health Assembly. The action plan calls for changes in attitudes that give rise to stigma and discrimination against people suffering from mental disorders. The major objective of this action plan is to achieve the global target of reducing suicide rates by 10 percent by 2020

Indian Initiatives Promoting Mental Health

The Government of India has launched several initiatives to promote mental health. These are highlighted below:
  • National Mental Health Program (NMHP): This program was launched by the Government of India way back in 1982. The primary goal of the program is to ensure that at least minimal mental healthcare is available and accessible to all Indians. As part of the National Program is the District Mental Health Program, which operates at the grassroots level. This district program focuses on integrating mental healthcare with primary healthcare
  • Mental Healthcare Act 2017: This Act was passed by the Indian Parliament on 7th April 2017 and came into force from 7th July 2018. This Act ensures the right to quality mental healthcare and services to all Indians suffering from mental illnesses
  • Adolescent Reproductive and Sexual Health (ARSH) Program: This program is a component of the National Health Mission (NHM) and provides various health services specifically for adolescents and young adults
  • Other Initiatives: Some other initiatives of the Government of India include the National Social Service Scheme, the Nehru Yuva Kendra Sangathan, and the National Youth Policy 2014, which encourage all-round physical and mental development of Indian youths


We all have a role to play in suicide prevention and collectively we can make a difference and save lives. Efforts to prevent suicide are more likely to succeed when there is a broad participation and a shared commitment to meet common goals. Collaborative efforts are also likely to be more sustained when resources are shared, such as staff, responsibilities, materials, funds, knowledge, and research findings.

So, on this World Mental Health Day, let's get together to generate awareness in a unifying voice, showing empathy towards those suffering from mental illnesses, helping them to better cope and manage the disease. This will help create hope and empower them to take action and fight the disease to make a long-lasting positive impact on their lives.

References :
  1. World Mental Health Day 2019: Focus on Suicide Prevention - World Health Organization - (
  2. Suicide Prevention - World Health Organization - (
  3. World Mental Health Day 2019: Mental Health Promotion and Suicide Prevention - World Federation for Mental Health - (
  4. There is No Health Without Mental Health - World Federation for Mental Health - (
  5. Suicide - World Health Organization - (

Source: Medindia
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