World Mental Health Day is observed on 10 October every year, with the overall objective of raising awareness of mental health issues around the world and mobilising efforts in support of mental health. The day provides an opportunity for all stakeholders working on mental health issues to talk about their work, and what more needs to be done to make mental health care a reality for people worldwide.
While the World Health Organisation (WHO) has made suicide a priority issue for a number of years, it is important to emphasise that it is a topic that has attracted the interest of most fields of study for centuries, which is why it has been explored by philosophy, religion, medicine, sociology, bioethics, law, and psychology, among other fields.
According to the WHO, more than 800,000 people die by suicide a year, making it the principal cause of death among people 15-29 years old.
It is often believed that it is only adults who exhibit suicidal behaviours, but it should be made known that many children and young people engage in this kind of behaviour as a result of violence, sexual abuse, bullying and cyberbullying.
Suicide is a global public health problem that deserves the attention of all the actors in the field of mental health, including scientific and professional organisations, organisations for mental health users and their families, and universities.
It deserves particular attention from national health authorities, since it is their responsibility to craft policies and directives aimed at establishing strategies to prevent suicide and promote the public’s mental health.
There are numerous complex factors that contribute to a suicide, but what is most important is that all of our actions must be geared toward prevention.
The object of making suicide prevention the theme of World Mental Health Day in 2019 is to attract the attention of governments so that the issue might be given priority in public health agendas around the world.
Prevention and control
Suicides are preventable. There are a number of measures that can be taken at population, sub-population and individual levels to prevent suicide and suicide attempts. These include:
♦ reducing access to the means of suicide (e.g. pesticides, firearms, certain medications)
♦ reporting by media in a responsible way
♦ school-based interventions
♦ introducing alcohol policies to reduce the harmful use of alcohol
♦ early identification, treatment and care of people with mental and substance use disorders, chronic pain and acute emotional distress
♦ training of non-specialised health workers in the assessment and management of suicidal behaviour
♦ follow-up care for people who attempted suicide and provision of community support.
Suicide is a complex issue and therefore suicide prevention efforts require coordination and collaboration among multiple sectors of society, including the health sector and other sectors such as education, labour, agriculture, business, justice, law, defense, politics, and the media. These efforts must be comprehensive and integrated as no single approach alone can make an impact on an issue as complex as suicide.