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What must be done to reduce the suicide rate?

What must be done to reduce the suicide rate?

August 11, 2022

According to the data provided by the World Health Organization (WHO) more than 800,000 people die every year by suicide and many more commit the attempt without success. In 2001, suicides registered worldwide exceeded the figures for deaths due to homicide (500,000) and wars (230,000) while, in the vast majority of countries, it is the leading cause of unnatural death ahead of accidents. circulation or murder.

It is clear that we are talking about a very serious public health problem, which, even today, remains a taboo subject for most governments and societies that suffer from it, as well as in the families involved. What is being done to prevent part of the population from ending their own lives? Next we will see what they are the known measures to reduce the suicide rate .


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The stigma and the taboo of suicide

In the first place, to know how to intervene on the generalization of suicide attempts it is necessary to take into account that it is complicated to research on this subject , since it is covered by taboo and stigma. From the data we have seen, many more cases are presumed to those officially notified because death by suicide is a very sensitive issue, even illegal in some countries, and may remain poorly classified under deaths due to "driving accidents" or "cardiac arrest".

Studies on this aspect, like those of the psychologist Thomas Joiner, elucidate that more than 40% of the people who have lost a loved one because of suicide I would lie about it to hide the truth .


The registration of a suicide case is a complicated procedure that involves several different authorities among police, health personnel, relatives and media, who do not always face the facts with the transparency and information necessary to coordinate their prevention.

The Werther effect and the information restriction

The focal part of these difficulties lies in the stigma associated with mental disorders and suicidal behavior, promoted mainly by fear and ignorance. One of the main pillars of misinformation falls on the well-known Werther effect .

The Werther effect (or its variants "copycat", "domino", "call", among others) versa of the novel The sorrows of young Werther written by Johann Wolfgang Von Goethe in 1774, where the protagonist suffers so much for love that he decides to end his life. This behavior was copiously imitated by many young people of the time, to the point where the novel was banned by the authorities.


Later the sociologist David Phillips elaborated an analogous study between 1947 and 1968 showing that when the New York Times published a news related to a suicide, these were increased in the whole country the following month.

Actually, the idea that suicide has a "contagious" aspect , that is, if a famous person takes his life or a similar news comes to light will lead others to consider suicide as a desirable option, it is very difficult to prove, and the studies that make it known are contradictory. Suicide rates remain stable over time and this is corroborated by statistics that can be consulted after the 19th century, which has led to a worldwide agreement among all specialists on the most common causes.

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The main causes of suicide

Among the main risk factors include: mental illness, depression and psychosis disorders, as well as drug use and addictions , chronic medical illnesses with pain and, finally, major life crises, being the most frequent with 60% of cases, the breakup of a partner (in the end, we continue to commit suicide for love), preceded by problems in the family environment and the economic problems.

It is also necessary to mention social isolation, uprooting and the lack of emotional ties with others.

So, to what extent talking about suicide can help people who are in these tessituras and thinking about it recurrently? Certainly informing and sensitizing can impel a person who has conceived to put an end to his life to take action like that drop that fills the glass, but at the same time, it's the only way for people to know they can ask for help when he has reached this point and the only answer he finds is silence.

According to the psychiatrist and suicide expert Carmen Tejedor, responsible for the first suicide prevention plan carried out in Spain, to prevent people from talking about suicide.

Attempts to end one's life

Nobody wants to die; the idea that suicide is an act of free will understood as that the person voluntarily decides on his acts derives from a romantic concept of the freedom of the person. There is no freedom in suicide, only constant and intense desperation until the individual considers his death as the only way to avoid suffering .

For every completed suicide there are between 20 and 30 people who put their lives at stake to try to end it. These attempts are the approaches that the individual makes, trials, to see how to face fear, physical pain and the break with their own sense of self-preservation . The expression is false: "who has not managed to kill himself is because he really was not going to do it". If a person has tried to commit suicide once, it is very possible that he will try again, and the next attempt may be successful.

Psychological intervention and prevention

Faced with most unsuccessful attempts or attempts, options may be opened that include pharmacological and psychological treatments through which Many people discover new reasons to continue living . It has been estimated that without an adequate suicide prevention plan, 30% of those affected will repeat the attempt, but thanks to a specialized intervention only 10% will do so.

The role of society is crucial, currently a few countries have included suicide prevention among their health priorities and only 28 countries have reported that they have a national suicide prevention strategy.

The most direct measures have been the restriction of information and the restriction of lethal means (such as the selection of the disclosure of information on suicides, medications without a prescription, stopping the use of barbiturates ...). It is proven that if a person initiates a suicidal behavior, but this is interrupted or inaccessible, it does not tend to run to another site to finish it. Limiting access to a lethal environment translates into the practice of installing physical barriers in risk areas such as windows of certain hotels and bridges.

However, we must go further and bet on the coordination of institutions . First, inform in a responsible way from the media to break the stigma, particularly around mental disorders and suicide. The lack of such responsibility makes it impossible for people who think about taking their own lives or have tried to receive the help they need.

Secondly, in relation to the aforementioned, to have reliable information whose data allow to deepen the study of suicidal behaviors in order to prevent them (only 60 Member States have good quality civil registration data that can be used directly to estimate suicide rates) including civil records of suicides, hospital records and representative studies nationwide.

Finally, it should be noted that the first WHO global report on suicide "Prevention of suicide: a global imperative" published in 2014, aims to raise awareness among the population of the importance of suicides and suicide attempts, as well as the need urgently to develop comprehensive prevention strategies within the framework of a multisectoral approach to public health so that Member States have managed to stabilize national suicide rates by 10% by the year 2020.


Suicide Prevention: How to lower the risks | Kaiser Permanente (August 2022).


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