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World Suicide Prevention Day - 10th September

2008 WSPD

2008 - Think Globally, Plan Nationally, Act Locally

(Click the link above to find World Suicide Prevention Day flyers in English, French, German, Italian, Spanish and Chinese, and to find a listing of activities from around the world.)

Think Globally - Extent of the Problem
Think Globally - Collaboration
Think Globally - Research
Plan Nationally - Strategy
Plan Nationally - Evaluation
Plan Nationally - Collaboration
Act Locally - Implementation of Programs
Act Locally - Community Initiatives
Act Locally - Advocacy
What You can do to Support World Suicide Prevention Day

Think Globally - Collaboration

A number of international agencies including IASP, WHO the United Nations, and International NGOS working in the voluntary sector have all identified suicide as a largely preventable public health problem, called for recognition of this issue at a global level and work actively in suicide prevention activities internationally.

There are many cross-national collaborative suicide research and prevention efforts. For example, people from Norway work in Uganda, the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention funded research in Hungary to explore the high suicide rates in that country; the University of Rochester works in China training local suicide researchers; researchers and funders from the UK, Europe and Australia are conducting research trials in Asia trying to reduce suicides by pesticide ingestion; researchers from Canada and Denmark evaluated a Befrienders-funded programme in Denmark and Lithuania to improve children's coping skills. Collaborative research and prevention efforts such as these advance and disseminate information about suicide.

The study conducted in India which reported high rates of suicide also found that about half of these suicides were by self-poisoning, generally by agricultural pesticides. Similar findings are reported for rural China where it is estimated that 60% of suicides involve pesticides, and rural Sri Lanka where pesticides may be involved in as many as 70% of suicides. In these regions pesticides also account for an estimated more than two million hospital admissions for self-poisoning. Pesticides are widely used and valued in agriculture in developing countries and usually stored in the home. Their ready availability may result in impulsive, stress-related suicide attempts with relatively low intent to die resulting in tragic deaths.

Recent initiatives concerning the prevention of suicides involving pesticides provide another example of collaborative efforts in suicide prevention. Given the extent of the problem of suicide in Asia and the predominance of pesticides in suicide in this region, global suicide rates will only fall if we can achieve reductions in pesticide suicides. A number of organizations including IASP and WHO, multinational companies, and university-based international programmes are involved in community efforts in Asia and Central America to reduce suicide by pesticides.

Since the 10th of September, 2004, World Suicide Prevention Day has become established around the world as a well-recognized occasion to increase public awareness about suicide prevention and to appeal to governments, policymakers and regional health authoritues to take leadership and to set and meet targets for reducing suicide.

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Think Globally - Research

While suicide rates differ widely around the world research conducted in different countries tends to produce findings about the causes of suicide which are remarkably similar across countries and cultures.

This year a large study of suicide, involving 85 000 adults in 17 countries, found that the prevalence of suicidal behaviours varied between countries but there was strong consistency in the characteristics and risk factors for these behaviours across countries. In particular, this study showed that risk factors for suicidal behaviour that were consistent across countries were being female, younger, having fewer years of education, being unmarried and having a mental disorder. People who had more than one mental disorder had significantly increased suicide risk compared to people who had one disorder. Interestingly, the strongest risk factor for suicidal behaviour in high income countries was a mood disorder, whereas an impulse control disorder was the strongest factor in middle and low income studies.

These findings from global studies highlight the fact that suicidal behaviour is a complex phenomenon and, usually, no single cause is sufficient to explain a suicidal act. During the last three decades an extensive body of knowledge has accumulated about the biological, cultural, social, psychological and contextual factors that can influence risk of suicidal behaviour.

Risk of suicide can be influenced by individual vulnerability or resiliency related to age, gender, ethnicity, religious values, genetic and biologic factors, personality traits and sexual orientation. People from socially and economically disadvantaged backgrounds are at increased risk of suicidal behaviour. Childhood adversity and trauma, and various life stresses as an adult influence risks of suicidal behaviour.

Serious mental illnesses, most commonly depression, substance abuse, anxiety disorders and schizophrenia, are associated with increased risk of suicide. Diminished social interaction increases suicide risk, particularly among adults and older adults. At a population level, social cohesion and integration protect against suicide. At a community level factors such as the availability of means of suicide (such as firearms or pesticides) and media reporting practices may increase suicide risk.

All of these various risk factors tend to act cumulatively to increase suicide risk. The fact that there are multiple causes of suicidal behaviour and the absence of a single, readily identifiable high risk group accounting for the majority of suicides, implies that many different types of programmes and activities are needed to prevent suicide. Each programme and action may contribute to reducing suicide.

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Plan Nationally - Strategy