April 16, 2024
Health Lifestyle

WHO unveils 2 new resources to strengthen suicide prevention efforts

World health body provides critical recommendations to nations

The World Health Organization (WHO), on September 12, 2023, launched two resources designed to strengthen suicide prevention efforts: Preventing suicide: a resource for media professionals (2023 update) and a policy brief on the health aspects of decriminalising suicide and suicide attempts.

Suicide is a significant public health problem across the globe.

Each year, more than 700,000 people take their own life. It is the fourth leading cause of death among 15–29-year-olds.

Detrimental effect

According to WHO, not only is each loss of life tragic, but it also has profound and devastating effects on families and entire communities.

Suicide can be linked to multiple, complex, and intersecting social, economic, cultural, and psychological factors and challenges, including the denial of fundamental human rights and access to resources as well as stressful life events such as loss of livelihood, work or academic pressures, relationship breakdowns and discrimination, among others.

Reducing the global suicide rate by one-third by 2030 is a target of the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the WHO Global Mental Health Action Plan.

Urgent action is needed to meet the 2030 goal, and countries have committed to taking concrete measures in this direction, WHO has noted.

Tragic scenario

Dévora Kestel, Director of Mental Health and Substance Use, at the World Health Organization, said: “Each death by suicide is a tragedy, and more must be done to strengthen suicide prevention.

“The resources launched by WHO today [September 12, 2023] provide important guidance on two areas which are critical to suicide prevention efforts: decriminalisation of suicide and suicide attempts and responsible reporting of suicide by the media.”

Key facts about suicide (globally): WHO

  • More than 700,000 people die due to suicide every year.
  • For every suicide, many more people attempt suicide.
  • Suicide is the fourth leading cause of death among 15–29-year-olds.
  • 77% of global suicides occur in low- and middle-income countries.
  • Ingestion of pesticides, hanging and firearms are the most common methods of suicide.

Suicide and suicide attempts are criminalised in the laws of at least 23 countries worldwide, and suicide attempts continue to be actively punished in some of them.

The criminalisation of suicide perpetuates an environment that fosters blame towards people who attempt suicide and deters people from seeking timely help due to the fear of legal repercussions and stigma.

Drawing on the experiences of countries that have recently decriminalised suicide and suicide attempts, including Guyana, Pakistan and Singapore, the WHO policy brief on health aspects of the decriminalisation of suicide and suicide attempts sets out recommendations for policymakers, legislators and other decision-makers considering reform in this area.

National strategies

Key recommendations focus on developing national suicide prevention strategies, budgeting for ‘post-decriminalization’ training for first-line responders, establishing rights-oriented community-based mental health services, and formulating new mental health-related laws and policies that promote quality care and the rights of persons with mental health conditions and psychosocial disabilities.

The policy brief also sets out how decriminalisation saves lives by reducing the stigma and shame associated with suicide and promoting an environment where people feel able to seek help, allowing for improved data collection on suicide and suicide attempts, which can better inform appropriate interventions, and by increasing opportunities for awareness-raising and advocacy around suicide prevention.

Media role

The fourth edition of Preventing Suicide: a resource for media professionals, produced in collaboration with the International Association for Suicide Prevention, summarises current evidence on the impact of media reporting of suicide and provides practical guidance for media professionals on reporting suicide responsibly.

Dr Alexandra Fleischmann, a Scientist of the World Health Organization, stated: “Responsible media coverage of suicide is an important tool in our collective suicide prevention efforts. Using this resource, media professionals can help minimise imitative behaviours through accurate, appropriate, and empathetic reporting on suicide and encourage people to seek vital help.”

There is overwhelming evidence that the media can play a significant role in either strengthening or undermining suicide prevention efforts.

Caution urged

For example, evidence shows that vulnerable persons (such as those with a history of suicide attempts or thoughts or those exposed to suicide) are at an increased risk of engaging in imitative behaviours following media reports of suicide – mainly if the coverage is extensive, prominent, sensational, explicitly describes the method of suicide, makes suicide appear to be expected, or perpetuates widely-held myths about suicide.

The resource offers guidance on ensuring that reporting on suicide is accurate, responsible, and appropriate.

The resource also highlights increasing evidence that reporting on survival and resilience can lead to positive imitative behaviours and contribute to suicide prevention. It also guides writing recovery stories and mental and emotional well-being.

Featured image: WHO’s latest resource for the media guides writing recovery stories and mental and emotional well-being. Image: Umit Bulut

Last Updated on 7 months by Middle East News 247

    Middle East News 247

    Middle East News 247

    Middle East News 247 delivers the latest business and lifestyle news and essential infotainment for, and from the Middle East region, with key focus on the GCC nations: United Arab Emirates (UAE), Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Bahrain, Kuwait, and Oman.
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