Suicide remains leading cause of death worldwide, says WHO

Lara Adejoro

Suicide remains one of the leading causes of death worldwide, according to WHO’s latest estimates, published on Thursday.

According to the report titled: “Suicide worldwide in 2019,” more people are dying from suicide than some serious health conditions.

The WHO report stated that every year, more people die as a result of suicide than HIV, malaria or breast cancer – or war and homicide, noting that in 2019, more than 700,000 people died by suicide which is one in every 100 deaths.

This prompted WHO to produce new guidance to help countries improve suicide prevention and care, the report said.

“We cannot – and must not – ignore suicide,” said the Director-General of the World Health Organisation, Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, 

“Each one is a tragedy. Our attention to suicide prevention is even more important now, after many months living with the COVID-19 pandemic, with many of the risk factors for suicide ̶ job loss, financial stress and social isolation – still very much present. 

The new guidance that WHO is releasing today provides a clear path for stepping up suicide prevention efforts,” the WHO DG said.

WHO also disclosed that among young people aged 15-29, suicide was the fourth leading cause of death after road injury, tuberculosis and interpersonal violence, but noted that rates vary, between countries, regions, and between males and females.

“More than twice as many males die due to suicide as females (12.6 per 100,000 males compared with 5.4 per 100,000 females). Suicide rates among men are generally higher in high-income countries (16.5 per 100 000). For females, the highest suicide rates are found in lower-middle-income countries (7.1 per 100,000).

“Suicide rates in the WHO African (11.2 per 100,000), European (10.5 per 100,000) and South-East Asia (10.2 per 100,000) regions were higher than the global average (9.0 per 100,000) in 2019. The lowest suicide rate was in the Eastern Mediterranean region (6.4 per 100,000).

“Globally, the suicide rate is decreasing; in the Americas, it is going up,” it said.

The agency added that suicide rates fell in the 20 years between 2000 and 2019, with the global rate decreasing by 36 percent, with decreases ranging from 17 percent in the Eastern Mediterranean Region to 47 percent in the European Region and 49 percent in the Western Pacific.

“But in the Americas Region, rates increased by 17 percent in the same time period.

“Although some countries have placed suicide prevention high on their agendas, too many countries remain uncommitted. Currently, only 38 countries are known to have a national suicide prevention strategy. A significant acceleration in the reduction of suicides is needed to meet the SDG target of a one-third reduction in the global suicide rate by 2030,” WHO noted.

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