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One person takes their own life every 40 seconds - WHO report

A major new report by WHO is calling for action in addressing “a large public health problem which has been shrouded in taboo for far too long”.

A MAJOR REPORT on suicide prevention by the World Health Organisation has found that 800,000 people die by suicide every year – that’s one person every 40 seconds.

The report, the first of its kind by WHO, recommends that governments adopt a coordinated response to the issue of suicide, incorporating sectors from health to education to social welfare.

Only 28 countries were found to have national suicide prevention strategies.

“This report is a call for action to address a large public health problem which has been shrouded in taboo for far too long” Dr Margaret Chan, WHO’s Director-General, said.

The report notes that suicide is a global phenomenon, varying from country to country due to factors such as socio-economic status, but it is preventable.

While WHO noted that reducing access to the means of suicide is one method, it can also involve responsible media reporting, identification of potential issues by health workers, and by “essential” follow-up contact for those who have attempted suicide, combined with community support.

PastedImage-99376 WHO WHO

Dr Alexandra Fleischmann, Scientist in the Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse at WHO, said that regardless of how advanced a country’s progress is in terms of suicide prevention, “effective measures can be taken, even just starting at local level and on a small-scale”.

The report found that suicide rates are highest in those aged 70 and over – in low- and middle-income countries, women over 70 are twice as likely to die by suicide than those in younger age brackets – but that it is also the second leading cause of death in young adults aged between 15 and 29.

This is the first time WHO has published a report involving a comprehensive review of suicide statistics across the world and successful suicide prevention measures, and comes ahead of World Suicide Prevention Day on 10 September.


  • Console 1800 247 247 – (suicide prevention, self-harm, bereavement)

  • Aware 1890 303 302 (depression anxiety)

  • Pieta House 01 601 0000 or email - (suicide, self-harm, bereavement)

  • Teen-Line Ireland 1800 833 634 (for ages 13 to 19)

  • Childline 1800 66 66 66 (for under 18s)

Read: Emergency services staff reach out to people at risk of suicide >

More: ‘It was amazing to be listened to’ – This service helped 2,500 young people last year >

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