All over the world, suicide claims one life every 40 seconds, placing it among the top 20 leading causes of death globally. Each death represents someone’s child, spouse, parent, friend, classmate, boss, or acquaintance. The International Association for Suicide Prevention reports that an estimated 135 people are affected by the ripple effects of every successful suicide. In addition, there are more than 25 suicide attempts for each successful suicide.
If there’s any good news here, It is that suicide is preventable and there are things we can do about it. But if we are to have a chance at making a difference, all stakeholders- individuals, families, health professionals, religious organizations, governments, civil societies- need to work together. We need to embrace strategies that actively involve individuals, systems, and communities. And importantly, we need to consider every member of the society an important piece in the suicide prevention puzzle.
Who is at risk?
Suicidal behavior does not recognize boundaries; it can happen to anyone at any time. However, certain factors may put an individual at greater risk of harboring suicidal thoughts or making a suicide attempt. Mental health disorders especially alcohol use disorders and depression are well-known risk factors for suicide but it doesn’t end there.
Many suicides are spontaneous, often due to the individual’s inability to cope with a stressor. The stressor could be a chronic illness, financial crisis, a bad break-up, bullying or other seemingly minor incidents that build up over time. Furthermore, people who belong to vulnerable groups such as refugees, LGBTIs, migrants, prisoners, and other people who constantly experience discrimination are more prone to attempting suicide. However, the greatest risk factor for suicide remains an unsuccessful suicide attempt. 4 out of every 10 people that die by suicide have made at least one previous attempt.
What can individuals do?
As mentioned earlier, everyone has a role to play in suicide prevention. You can make a difference as a parent, friend, colleague, child, or neighbor. To do your part in the fight against suicide, you should:
If you or anyone you know is exhibiting suicidal behavior, you can reach out to the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 for free and confidential professional support.