The World Health Organization (WHO) reports that every year close to 800,000 people take their own lives, and there are many more people who attempt suicide. The organization also informed that suicide is the second leading cause of death among 15-to-29-year-olds globally.
Suicide is a mental health problem, often precipitated by one catalyzing factor at a moment’s impulse. This global phenomenon is a scourge affecting every nation of the world. However, suicides are preventable, and education through generally interactive counselling sessions, especially in schools, churches and at various youth fora; as well as easily-accessible helplines that could provide timely interventions by way of a conduit – a compassionate listening ear and provision of advice based on rational reasoning, for revealing bad experiences and expressing negative emotions, especially if it is an impersonal one, can serve to reduce the crippling pain to bearable levels, and enable rational thought that diffuses intentions of self-destruction.
In a national context, there needs to be a holistic approach involving multi-sectoral agencies, especially in the health, education and social services sectors.
A comprehensive suicide prevention strategy is imperative to curb and eventually eliminate this scourge from society.
According to the WHO, experiencing conflict, disaster, violence, abuse or loss and a sense of isolation is strongly associated with suicidal behaviour. Suicide rates are also high among vulnerable groups who experience discrimination, such as refugees and migrants; indigenous peoples; lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex (LGBTI) persons. By far the strongest risk factor for suicide is a previous suicide attempt.
Prioritising formulating a strategy for suicide prevention has become an imperative, because the consequence is not only the tragic, preventable loss of a life; but this one irreversible and tragic act has many victims, especially loved ones on whom are inflicted a lifetime of unendurable pain and emotional and psychological scars.
Statistically, only 38 countries are reported to have formulated a national suicide prevention strategy.
Raising community awareness and breaking down the taboo is important for countries to make progress in preventing suicide, but this figure is not cast in stone because, according to WHO, globally, the availability and quality of data on suicide and suicide attempts is poor. Only 80 Member States have good quality, vital registration data that can be used directly to estimate suicide rates. The first WHO World Suicide Report, “Preventing suicide: a global imperative”, published in 2014, aims to increase the awareness of the public health significance of suicide and suicide attempts and to make suicide prevention a high priority on the global public health agenda. It also aims to encourage and support countries to develop or strengthen comprehensive suicide prevention strategies in a multisectoral public health approach.
Suicide is one of the priority conditions in the WHO Mental Health Gap Action Programme (mhGAP) launched in 2008, which provides evidence-based technical guidance to scale up service provision and care in countries for mental, neurological and substance use disorders. In the WHO Mental Health Action Plan 2013–2020, WHO Member States have committed themselves to working towards the global target of reducing the suicide rate in countries by 10 per cent by 2020.
In addition, the suicide mortality rate is an indicator of target 3.4 of the Sustainable Development Goals: by 2030, to reduce by one third premature mortality from noncommunicable diseases through prevention and treatment, and promote mental health and well-being.
Recently, in Guyana, a 15-year-old student of a city school took her own life. Adolescents are especially at risk of hormone-related fluctuation of moods and they can sink into depression through many catalysts. In this instance, it is being alleged by fellow students that the child was being bullied, humiliated for an alleged wrongdoing by a teacher causing her shame. These accusations against the teacher by the dead child’s classmates need to be thoroughly investigated and, if found culpable, should be removed from their positions and severely punished, even charged, because teaching is not merely a profession but should be a vocation. Teachers have over-arching responsibility of moulding young lives to become the best they can be and becoming rounded, grounded, mature personalities; simultaneous to guiding young minds into achieving their greatest potential for education acquisition.
Even one life lost to suicide is one too many. A listening ear, and rational advice, proffered in a non-judgmental way, can prevent many disturbed persons from taking their own lives.