Worldwide efforts to prevent suicide
The International Association for Suicide Prevention (IASP)
distributed a press release at the time of the
World Suicide Prevention Day on 2009-SEP-10. The release contained
information on suicide prevention programs in various countries of the
The following is excerpted from their news
Some programs in various countries to prevent suicide:
Efforts to decriminalize suicide: In some cultures (e.g.: Lebanon and
Pakistan) suicide is still a criminal activity. This status determines the way
suicide is responded to. It stigmatizes the families of those who die by
suicide, inhibits suicide attempters from seeking appropriate help and hinders
efforts to establish suicide prevention programs. As a fundamental step in
suicide prevention, efforts have been made in India to decriminalize suicide and
the International Association for Suicide Prevention is collaborating
with the World Health Organization to support and facilitate these efforts.
Reduction of suicide by pesticide in Asia: Culture influences the
methods that people select to commit suicide. Most suicides in the world occur
in Asia, which is estimated to account for up to 60% of all suicides. In many
Asian countries (including China, India, Sri Lanka, Malaysia) a large proportion
of suicides result from poisoning by swallowing agricultural pesticides. Suicide
by this method is particularly common in females in rural areas. Given the large
contribution to world suicide rates, reducing pesticide suicides could make a
significant impact on global suicide rates. Current efforts to reduce pesticide
suicide focus on removing the most toxic pesticides from sale, restricting
access to pesticides by the use of locked storage boxes, improving access to
emergency treatment and health care, educating about help‐seeking and providing
crisis support for rural women in stressful situations.
Minimizing media reports of suicide methods. Culture shapes the way
suicide is reported by the media. In Hong Kong, media reports of a novel method
of suicide, charcoal burning, contributed to the rapid adoption of this method
by people who did not previously make suicide attempts. Concerted efforts by
suicide prevention experts in Hong Kong focused on persuading the media to adopt
a more cautious and muted approach to reporting suicides by charcoal burning. At
the same time, novel efforts were made to restrict access to charcoal by
reducing access within supermarkets, and to train community accommodation owners
to recognize people who might be at risk of suicide who were seeking a room in
which to use charcoal burning to kill themselves. Implementation of these
initiatives resulted in a significant reduction in suicides by charcoal burning.
Support for Immigrants. Increasing globalization, ease of
international travel, and refugees and asylum seekers from war and disaster have
swelled the number of immigrants worldwide. People who are alienated from their
country and culture of origin are vulnerable to various stresses, mental health
problems, loneliness and suicidal behavior.
Suicide prevention strategies, tailored to the specific needs of migrant
groups, exist in many countries. These programs typically focus on understanding
the specific cultural and religious attitudes to mental health and suicide of
the migrant group, reasons for migration, and family and social structures.
Interventions include educational and social programs designed to identify
stresses, teach coping skills, promote use of preventative health practices,
improve access to health services and encourage socializing. Suicide prevention
programs for migrants may require involvement, championship or leadership from
religious or community leaders to be successful.
Promoting community enhancement, awareness and linkages to reduce
indigenous youth suicide. In the US, Canada, New Zealand and Australia,
rates of youth suicide are substantially higher amongst indigenous young people
compared to their non-Aboriginal peers. Reasons given for this include the
impact of change, colonization, disruption of family and social ties and a
resulting lack of secure cultural identity. Suicide prevention programs for
aboriginal youth focus on community gatekeeper training programs to better
recognize at-risk youth and refer them for help, and promotion of activities to
promote community involvement. An example is provided by the North Dakota
Adolescent Suicide Prevention Project. Within a 4- year time span, this
project demonstrated a 47 percent reduction in 10-19 year-old suicide
fatalities, compared to the 10-year average in the 1990s, and a 29 percent
decrease in suicide attempts in North Dakota youth. The project used a
multi-faceted approach, including public awareness, education, gatekeeper
training, and peer mentoring of teenagers.
Encouragement of safe drinking. Alcohol abuse is strongly related to
suicidal behavior and population rates of suicidal behavior are influenced by
population alcohol consumption levels, which in turn are influenced by cultural
and religious attitudes towards alcohol consumption. Evidence from the Soviet
bloc suggests that the imposition of regulations restricting access to alcohol
dramatically reduced both alcohol consumption and suicide rates. Countries in
which the dominant religion proscribes against drinking tend to have low suicide
rates. Public education programs that encourage safe and moderate drinking may
play a role in suicide prevention at a population level.
Mental Health de‐stigmatization programs. Cultural attitudes to mental
illness influence people?s willingness to seek treatment or support for mental
illness. Throughout the world investments have been made in public education
campaigns tailored to meet the need of specific cultural groups. These programs
are designed to promote awareness and
understanding of mental disorders. These types of campaigns may contribute to
suicide prevention by encouraging better utilization of services and support for
those with mental disorders.
Suicide rates in different countries:
There are substantial variations in suicide rates among different countries,
and, to some extent, these differences reflect cultural differences to suicide.
Cultural views and attitudes towards suicide influence both whether people will
make suicide attempts and whether suicides will be reported accurately.
Suicide rates, as reported to the World Health Organisation, are
highest in Eastern European countries including Lithuania, Estonia, Belarus and
the Russian Federation. These countries have suicide rates of the order of 45 to
75 per 100,000.
Reported suicide rates are lowest in the countries of Mediterranean Europe
and the predominantly Catholic countries of Latin America (Colombia, Paraguay)
and Asia (such as the Philippines) and in Muslim countries (such as Pakistan).
These countries have suicide rates of less than 6 per 100 000.
In the developed countries of North America, Europe and Australasia suicide
rates tend to lie between these two extremes, ranging from 10 to 35 per 100 000.
Suicide data are not available from many countries in Africa and South
"Suicide Prevention in Different Cultures," International Association for
Suicide Prevention (IASP), at:
http://www.iasp.info/ This is a PDF file.
Original posting: 2009-SEP-11
Latest update: 2009-SEP-11