The recent months have been extremely eventful for IASP. Highlights have included being able to meet in person again for the European Symposium on Suicide and Suicidal Behaviour (ESSSB), as well as globally impactful campaigns surrounding World Suicide Prevention Day (WSPD) and World Mental Health Day (WMHD). As you will see from our newly designed Sector News in our subscriber email update, there have also been some significant and encouraging advances in the policy space over the last few months.
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At the end of August, after having had to postpone ESSSB19 in 2020 due the COVID-19 pandemic, colleagues working in suicide research and prevention were finally able to meet again in person in Copenhagen for the 19th European Symposium on Suicide and Suicidal Behaviour. It was a great conference, and serves as a reminder of the importance of in-person contact, though acknowledging the widening-access benefits of online conferences.
The IASP Regional Suicide Prevention Network Programme (now re-named Partnerships For Life) organised a pre-conference workshop, providing an update on the network’s activities as well as inviting participants to discuss how national suicide prevention strategies could be implemented in different contexts. ESSSB is a valued opportunity for knowledge exchange between researchers, clinicians, practitioners and people with lived and living experiences and we were heartened to see attendees from all over the world.
This year’s World Suicide Prevention Day (WSPD) was based around our triennial theme ‘Creating Hope through Action’. I am delighted with the reception of the World Suicide Prevention Day Awareness Film, that continues to inspire us to take action and be a beacon of light in our communities to guide those in crisis towards help. I would also like to thank all those involved in making WSPD such a powerful movement. In total, we logged an incredible 127 events taking place around the world to raise awareness about suicide. For the ninth year, our annual Cycle around the Globe encouraged our global community to get on their bikes accumulating a phenomenal 297,172.7 KM in the name of suicide prevention.
Then on 10 October, we marked World Mental Health Day (WMHD) 2022. This year’s WMHD theme was ‘Make Mental Health & Well-Being for All a Global Priority’, its aim being to highlight the inequalities exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic and its continued impact on people across the world, in particular, in terms of accessing help and support for their mental health. A massive barrier to accessing help is the criminalisation of suicidal behaviour in some parts of the world. Throughout 2022, IASP continued to highlight decriminalisation and this remains a priority for us moving forward. We also acknowledge the important contribution of the Lancet Commission on Ending Stigma and Discrimination in Mental Health. This is a landmark publication, launched on World Mental Health Day, which is also influential in the work that we do around suicide and self-harm.
WSPD and WMHD are important times when we reflect on the extensive community action that has taken place and it allows us to reaffirm and communicate our priorities nationally and internationally. While there are many challenges to our mental health and wellbeing, not least the cost of living, economic and energy crises, it is encouraging to see what we can accomplish as a global community when we work together.
Prof. Rory O’ Connor