World Mental Health Day 2019: Suicide Prevention
By Simona Mellino
When we find out about cases of suicide in journals or on TV, we tend to think that it is a topic that does not relate to us directly. We want to believe that it will never happen to us or our relatives and that it is an extreme event caused mostly by dramatic financial or health conditions.
The reality is quite different.
This year, World Mental Health Day on October 10 is dedicated to suicide prevention, to raise awareness and make sure that the topic is included in the global public health agenda.
Looking closer at the statistics, the results are quite shocking:
- According to WHO, 800’000 people die to suicide every day
- Suicide is the leading cause of death among individuals 15-29 years old
- In 2016, 79% of suicides occurred in low- and middle-income countries
- According to NIMH statistics, in the US in 2017, there were more than twice as many suicides as there were homicides
So, if you associate suicide just to adults, you are wrong. Suicide still remained the second cause of death for age groups 10-24 (2017, in US) and the numbers are growing. The consequences of suicide are equally dramatic; the emotional loss plays a big role and the economic burden associated to medical and work-loss is not insignificant (USD 50 Billion in the US in 2013).
Mental disorders play an overwhelming role in suicide risk factors, together with substance abuse, and social and economic situations.
Suicidal behaviour is influenced by many complex external and genetic factors. According to Center for Disease Control (CDC), gender plays a role in suicide and suicidal behaviour. As an example, a systematic review assessed associations between gender and suicide attempt showed that females presented a higher risk of suicide attempts and also highlighted that risk-factors can be gender specific.
While the number of suicides is overall higher in men, the gap is closing in the US. Women tend to have higher rates in risk factors such as depression, which leads to an overall higher case of suicidal thoughts and (not always successful) attempts.
For this reason, preventative measures should reflect these considerations.
The Mission of the Women’s Brain Project is to include sex and gender differences throughout the patient journey, from prevention to diagnosis and treatment development. We believe that accounting for these factors will be pivotal in delivering better healthcare services and products.
Every 40 seconds, someone loses their life to suicide. Each of us can use the this year’s World Mental Health Day to put in “40 seconds of action” and think about how to contribute to raising awareness on this topic. And for any of you out there having dark thoughts, reach out to friends and family and to dedicated resources to get support (as an example, the NHS in the UK, or by dialing 143 in Switzerland).