As I conclude my term as President of the International Association of Suicide Prevention (IASP), I reflect gratefully on two years of wonderful experiences. The conferences, symposiums and meetings I have had the privilege to lead have provided me the opportunity to strengthen relationships with colleagues, expand my skillset and increase my knowledge base of the field.
I am incredibly proud to be a member of this community, sharing the same values, while bringing diverse perspectives from all parts of the world, demonstrating the synergism that can only be achieved by the collectivism as we strive towards our common goal of suicide prevention.
This has been a transformative year for our global society in many ways. We have been tested to our limits by the challenges imposed by the COVID-19 pandemic. I have felt truly motivated by the relentless efforts of our members throughout this difficult time. Many of you have adapted to the demands for rapid research on the impact of the coronavirus and the associated restriction measures on mental health, as well as psychological support for those who have been affected by the crisis. I believe that this is the optimal time to make a shift in the prioritisation of mental health in public health policies considering the current focus of attention from governments on the long-term impacts of the pandemic. We must seize this watershed moment to ensure that mental health maintains prominence on health agendas and receives the essential funding required to provide access to high-quality care for every person in need.
The IASP community have accomplished a great deal this year. The 18th World Suicide Prevention Day took place on September 10th and was as fruitful as ever, despite the logistical issues presented by the restrictions of the pandemic. The awareness-raising campaign and events across the globe amplified the conversation around mental health and suicide prevention, needed now more than ever. In recent months, a Presidential Task Force has been established to monitor and support suicide prevention efforts globally in light of COVID-19. The resources developed by the task force are accessible via the IASP COVID-19 Resource Centre. Furthermore, our policy position statement on decriminalisation was adopted in May this year, an important milestone for our organisation and suicide prevention as a whole. The statement was produced by the Special Working Group on the Decriminalisation of Attempted Suicide for the purpose of serving advocates for decriminalisation, policymakers, other international organisations, NGOs and governments where attempted suicide is currently criminalized to advance the decriminalisation of attempted suicide in their country. I invite you to familiarise yourselves with the full policy position statement and reference, as required.
Despite all of our progressive steps, we still have a long way to go in our effort to prevent suicide. My hope for the future of our organisation is that we will continue to expand our presence, particularly in the low and middle-income countries, who are most affected by high rates of suicide and limited resources. I wish our incoming President and the wider Executive Committee the very best, and I hope that they will enjoy their time in their roles as much as I have over the last few years.
Professor Murad Khan,