800,000 people kill themselves every year

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WHO report suicide as “major public health problem”

An important report by the World Health Organisation has stated that someone will take their own life every 40 seconds, with suicide being the second leading cause of death in young people aged between 15 and 29.

Analysing 10 years of research and data on this topic from around the world, the WHO also discovered that those over 70 were the most likely to take their own lives, with a massive 800,000 people killing themselves each year. Three quarters of the deaths recorded were in low and middle income countries, whilst in richer countries, three times as many men as women die by suicide.

The WHO is aiming to reduce suicide rates by 10% by 2020, however it warned that only 28 countries have a national suicide prevention strategy. The health body also recommended that limiting access to firearms and toxic chemicals was shown to reduce rates of suicide, but factors such as social stigma against mental health disorders need to be tackled as this could ultimately lead to suicide.

Taboo topic

Dr Margaret Chan, the director general of the World Health Organisation, told BBC News “This report is a call for action to address a large public health problem, which has been shrouded in taboo for far too long.”

Dr Alexandra Fleischmann, a scientist in the department of mental health and substance abuse at WHO, said “No matter where a country currently stands in suicide prevention, effective measures can be taken, even just starting at local level and on a small-scale.”

Jonny Benjamin, a suicide campaigner in the UK, said “I think there needs to be much more public awareness around suicide and how to approach people that may be experiencing suicidal thoughts and feelings, too few of us know how to react when they see someone who may be at risk of taking their life or experiencing those thoughts and feelings. I think there needs to be much more public awareness, much more education in schools as well because, as statistics today have shown young people are especially at risk of taking their own lives.”

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