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World Suicide Prevention Day: 6 Facts You Should Know About Suicide

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Every 40 seconds, someone in the world dies by suicide. That adds up to over 800,000 people every year. These disturbing statistics are provided by the World Health Organization (WHO) in the World Suicide Report: “Preventing Suicide: A Global Imperative.” The report is the most comprehensive, up-to-date record of international suicide prevention information.

In support of World Suicide Prevention Day (September 10th) and National Suicide Prevention Week (September 8th-14th), here are six facts about suicide to keep in mind.

1. The number of people who die by suicide each year is higher than the number of people who lose their lives to war and homicide combined.

In 2012, estimates show that for every adult who died by suicide, over 20 others attempted suicide.

2. Suicide is a global reality.

Suicide takes place all over the world and at almost any age. Globally, rates are highest in people aged 70 and older. In some places, however, suicide is prevalent in the younger generation. In 2012, suicide was the second leading cause of death among those aged 15-29. On average, more men than women die by suicide. In higher-income countries, three times more men die by suicide than women. In lower-income countries, women and young adults are more likely to die by suicide than their peers in higher-income countries.

3. There is no singular reason that causes someone to think about suicide or act upon those thoughts.

Some people experience difficult or traumatic events, such as sudden loss, and sexual physical, or emotional abuse, which can contribute to people feeling very sad and depressed. The events themselves do not cause suicide. A combination of psychological, social, biological,cultural, and environmental factors play a complex role in someone resorting to suicide. Working through distressing situations is very possible, however. Many people overcome challenges with the support of family, friends, and professionals. Reaching out for help is important.

4. While suicide can be sudden, shocking, and confusing, there are risk factors and warning signs you can identify.

Typically, people who are thinking of suicide will give some warning of what they are contemplating to friends and family members. All threats, behaviors, and attempts should be taken seriously. Warning signs include hopelessness, anger, seeking revenge, engaging in reckless or dangerous activities, feeling stuck or like there is no way out, anxiety, significant mood swings, withdrawing from others, increase in alcohol or drug use, finding no purpose in or reason for life, and prior suicide attempts. If you or someone you know is demonstrating any of these, please reach out for help.

5. Suicide is preventable.

From global measures to small-scale levels, actions can be taken to help prevent suicides. The World Suicide Report recommends restricting access to means of suicide, such as pesticides, firearms, and barriers on bridges. Large-scale policies designed to increase access to health care, reduce harmful substance abuse, promote mental health and its services, facilitate cooperation and collaboration between social systems and institutions, and endorse responsible media coverage will further suicide prevention. Additionally, smaller-scale strategies such as developing support systems and teaching positive coping skills are effective interventions.

6. Don’t be afraid to talk about suicide.

Social isolation increases the risk of suicidal thoughts and behavior. Connectedness is the theme of this year’s World Suicide Prevention Day. Having a bond with another person can be hugely impactful for someone who feels lost and alone. Depression and suicide are often perceived as taboo topics not to be broached. This only propagates the stigma of mental health issues and creates barriers to treatment. If you think someone is thinking about suicide, ask immediately. Don’t wait for a better time or avoid it because you think you might offend someone. If you connect, and offer to listen, you may save a life.

If you or someone you know is thinking about suicide, please reach out and ask for help. Call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255), talk to a friend, family member, teacher, co-worker, a trained counselor, or a health professional. Suicide does not have to be the answer. Help is possible.

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