World Suicide Prevention Day – 10th September

World Suicide Prevention Day – 10th September


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

World Suicide Prevention Day is held on September 10 each year as an initiative of the International Association for Suicide Prevention (IASP), and is co-sponsored by the World Health Organisation (WHO). The 2008 theme is “Think Globally. Plan Nationally. Act Locally.” This phrase, first used by the movement to save the environment, can equally well be applied to suicide prevention:

  • to develop global awareness of suicide as a major preventable cause of premature death,
  • to describe the political leadership and policy frameworks for suicide prevention provided by national suicide prevention strategies,
  • and to highlight the many practical prevention programmes that translate policy statements and research outcomes into activities at local, community levels.

This year’s theme “Think Globally. Plan Nationally. Act Locally”, is an opportunity for all sectors of the community: the public, charitable organizations, communities, researchers, clinicians, practitioners, politicians and policy makers, volunteers and those bereaved by suicide, to join with the IASP and WHO on World Suicide Prevention Day in focusing public attention on the unacceptable burden and costs of suicidal behaviours with diverse activities to promote understanding about suicide and highlight effective prevention activities.

Think Globally – Extent of the Problem

The WHO estimates that one million people die in the world each year by suicide. These figures represent an annual world mortality rate from suicide of 14.5 per 100 000 population. The reality is that every minute there are two more deaths by suicide.

In many developed countries suicide can be either the 2nd or 3rd leading cause of death among teenagers and young adults and is the 13th leading cause of death worldwide for people of all ages. In addition to those who die by suicide, many millions make non-fatal suicide attempts in the context of emotional distress and suffering for the people involved and their families.

There are substantial variations in suicide rates among different countries. However, one must be cautious in comparing suicide rates between countries since some countries report accurate suicide data and others fail to count a significant proportion of their suicides. Suicide rates, as reported to the WHO, 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.

By contrast, 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 10-35 per 100 000.

Suicide data are not available from many countries in Africa and South America. In 2009 IASP will provide an opportunity for countries in South America to highlight the problem of suicide and to share knowledge in order to expand suicide prevention activities at its 25th International Congress in Montevideo, Uruguay.

Most suicides in the world occur in Asia, which is estimated to account for up to 60% of all suicides. Together, three countries – China India and Japan – because of their large populations, may account for up to 40% of all world suicides. However, because of the sheer size of their populations, some of these countries do not have complete national registration systems for deaths, including suicide, and may lack comprehensive medical verdict or coronial systems. Official mortality data which are reported to the WHO may be based on a sample of the population which is not necessarily representative. In addition, accurate suicide data may be difficult to establish if suicide remains stigmatized, criminalized or penalized.

A recent study attempted to overcome some of these problems to estimate suicide rates more accurately. This study was conducted in Tamil Nadu, India, and used trained lay interviewers to conduct ‘verbal autopsy’ interviews with family members for 39 000 deaths. Using this approach, the study found that suicide rates were 10 times those reported officially to the WHO. If these findings are applicable to other countries they suggest that global suicide deaths may, in fact, be much higher than the near one million previously estimated.


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