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World Suicide Prevention Day - 10th September, 2005 Press Release

2006 WSPD

Prevention of Suicide is Everybody's Business

At simultaneous press conferences in Durban (South Africa), Cairo (Egypt) and Oslo (Norway) the International Association for Suicide Prevention announced the Third World Suicide Prevention Day to be held on September 10. Numerous national and local events such as conferences, meetings, concerts and events with spiritual or cultural content have been announced and organised all over the world in order to increase the public awareness that "Prevention of suicide is everybody's business". "Suicide is one of the world's largest public health problems and more lives are lost to suicide than in all wars and homicides worldwide every year", said Professor Lars Mehlum, the President of the International Association for Suicide Prevention (IASP). "There are three times more suicides each year than the enormous and catastrophic loss of human lives in the tragic Tsunami disaster in South East Asia in December 2004. More lives are lost to suicide every day than the loss of lives in the terrorist attack on New York 9.11.2001. Many more people's lives are affected by the problem of suicide by having lost someone close to suicide. Millions of people every year make suicide attempts severe enough to need medical and psychiatric treatment".

"In this age of preoccupation with global violence, terrorism and homicides, we often ignore the fact that worldwide more people kill themselves than die in all wars, terrorist acts and interpersonal violence combined," said Professor Brian Mishara, the President of the International Association for Suicide Prevention. "More than a million people worldwide die by suicide each year, many millions make suicide attempts severe enough to need medical treatment and many millions are affected by the disastrous impact of a suicide. We have now developed enough understanding of suicide to prevent a significant proportion of these tragic deaths, to treat suicidal individuals and help families bereaved by suicide. There is a great need to translate our very considerable knowledge about why people attempt to take their lives into effective strategies, policies, programmes and services, to reduce the tragic loss of lives and the devastating effects of suicidal behaviour. Promising areas for suicide prevention include improving mental health treatment and management, educating physicians, restricting access to lethal means of suicide, educating the community, providing help in crisis situations, providing support after suicide attempts and improving media coverage of suicide."

"Fortunately, there are many ways in which suicide can be prevented", said Professor Mehlum. "There is, however, a great need for coordinated and comprehensive suicide preventive initiatives throughtout the world if we are to reduce the enormous numbers of completed suicides, suicide attempts and problems related to suicide and self-destructive behaviours", said Mehlum.

Suicide is the result of a complex interaction of causal factors, including mental illness, poverty, substance abuse, social isolation, losses, relational difficulties and workplace problems. There is a great need for experts, such as medical personnel and mental health workers, when combatting suicide. These professionals play crucial roles in risk assessment, emergency services and in providing short- and long-term treatments. They are also important in the development of our knowledge-base through research and evaluation of preventive measures. "However, suicide cannot be effectively prevented through the efforts of these experts alone. Suicide prevention is not a responsibility of experts only. Everyone can do something to help reduce the number of people who try to solve their problems with suicidal behaviours", said Doctor Lars Mehlum, President of the International Association for Suicide Prevention. "We need, however, to combat myths and taboos surrounding suicide; these will otherwise prevent us from speaking openly and freely about the problem, find solutions and take action. The World Suicide Prevention Day aims at changing public attitudes and increase awareness of suicide as a major public health problem that is largely preventable", said Mehlum.

The International Association for Suicide Prevention (IASP) was founded in Vienna in 1960 as a working fellowship of researchers, clinicians, practitioners, volunteers and organisations of many kinds. Hence, IASP believes that suicide prevention should be put on the agenda for global and regional collaborative programmes. Examples of activities held on this day in different countries are posted on the IASP website.

For further information, contact:
Professor Lars Mehlum MD PhD
Tel +47 22 92 34 73 or + 47 900 678 22