The problem and our challenge
Globally, more people die by suicide every year than from cancer, heart disease, and diabetes combined. 2016 World Health Organisation (WHO) data counted 800,000 suicide deaths (one every 40 seconds) and with suicide rates rising in many countries, including the UK, over the past 4 years, total global suicide deaths will now be more than 1 billion per year. There are many more suicide attempts (20 times the number of deaths typically) and many family members, friends, colleagues, neighbours, etc traumatised by each death, especially as it often comes as shock news.
The reasons people choose to end their lives are often complex and varied. There is often no-one single contributing factor to take this most drastic of actions. What we do know is that many who make suicide attempts do so without letting anyone close to them know they’re considering taking their own life.
We must all be aware of the signs, in ourselves and others, and better understand how to take action to save lives – through early identification, early intervention, suicide prevention initiatives, ‘postvention’ support for those experiencing loss, and positive promotion of optimal mental health.
Most deaths by suicide are preventable, so we must do everything we can to help people who don’t want to die but are feeling they can’t bear the pain of living in their current circumstances. Our mission is to improve people’s mental wellbeing and the support available; to reduce people’s sense of social isolation; to encourage the development of a kinder society; and help people feel a sense of achievement and contentment because of who they are not what they have or don’t have.
We can envisage an achievable desired state where deaths by suicide are rare events. It’s a huge challenge and a big goal but achievable through prioritised, focused, practical actions:
- practical actions to make our communities and workplaces mentally healthy and psychologically safe places;
- practical actions to use human intelligence and digital technology for earlier identification and intervention;
- practical actions for suicide prevention such as ‘designing out suicide’ in our built environment, education systems, health systems, and support systems for those known to be at risk or in danger (including restricting access to the means of suicide – known to be the most effective practical action to save lives);
- practical actions to encourage every hospital, university, council, employer, industry association, professional society, etc to make practical plans for suicide prevention within their spheres of influence.
The act of suicide is a practical act – it needs practical actions to prevent it.
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