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Worldwide efforts to prevent suicide

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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 world.

The following is excerpted from their news release.

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 America.

References used:

  1. "Suicide Prevention in Different Cultures," International Association for Suicide Prevention (IASP), at: http://www.iasp.info/ This is a PDF file.

Site navigation: Home page > "Hot" topics  > Suicide > here

Original posting: 2009-SEP-11
Latest update: 2009-SEP-11

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