New WHO Report Shows Alarming Global Suicide Rates

The World Health Organization (WHO) recently released the results of its groundbreaking, global report concerning suicide. According to the report, approximately 800,000 persons commit suicide every year, meaning that one person takes his/her life every 40 seconds.  75% of suicides occur in middle or low-income countries, and the most affected age groups include persons aged 70+ as well as young adults between ages 15-29.

depression_research_homeAfter announcing these alarming rates, WHO Director-General Margaret Chan outlined various steps for countries to mitigate the issue of suicide.

Primarily, Dr. Chan advocated that countries integrate basic mental health screenings and services into existing primary care delivery. Additionally, she urged governments to create policies limiting residents’ access to firearms and poisonous chemicals, the two most common tools used in committing suicide.  Finally, the WHO invoked countries to develop national guidelines to govern how media outlets report on celebrity suicides.  Numerous studies demonstrate that sensationalizing the methods by which various celebrities have ended their lives can cause spikes in copycat suicides. Consequently, Dr. Chan urged worldwide media outlets to “report responsibly” on suicide deaths.

The WHO report and recommendations signify crucial steps in the process of reducing international suicide rates and improving mental health services. Currently, only 28 of 195 countries possess official strategies to prevent suicide, and mental health issues are frequently stigmatized in many societies. Nevertheless, the WHO projects that implementation of its recommendations could reduce global suicide rates by 10% over the upcoming six years, and it could fuel momentum for augmenting mental health services worldwide. More >>

Tulane School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine conducts interdisciplinary research on mental health. Learn more about our research efforts here.