Suicide. A topic not often spoken about in the media or in our everyday lives. That silence is stifling.
New data, in the first global report on suicide, indicates that one person will talk their own life every 40 seconds. Suicide kills more people every year than both war and natural disasters according to the research from the World Health Organisation. It’s time we started talking about it.
Only 28 out of nearly 200 world governments have a strategy for their nation on helping to prevent suicide. As the report has stated, this situation is now a “major public health problem”.
Suicide will account for 56% of violent deaths every year globally, with reports estimating that 804,000 people worldwide killed themselves in 2012. The more worrying trend seems to be the proportion of these that are young people. Close to 6,000 of these people were above the age of 15 and were from the UK, according to the Office of National Statistics data, which, whilst still worrying, is a slight drop on last year’s figures.
The figures however can only be considered somewhat accurate. In some nations, the world over, suicide is still considered a crime and therefore is not reported as such, or in some countries it is simply not reported at all. Even in countries where the reporting is good, suicide is often interpreted as an accident or another cause of death is given, the World Health Organisation report states. The United Kingdom’s suicide rate currently sits at 11.6 deaths per 100,000 as of the most recent data in 2012 which is slightly above the world average of 11.4 people states the WHO report. These figures do not appear to be large when considering the number of people in the UK but should we not be better than that?
Suicide has only recently started to be acceptable to talk about and worryingly it only occurred after the death of Robin Williams, one of the world’s most beloved actors. The suicide of Robin Williams has opened the door to discussions about depression and its dangers that are still often considered taboo. The fact that this level of incident is required to get the media and people talking about an issue that currently affects 350 million people worldwide is frankly a little disturbing.
Suicide affects all age groups, the research found. Rates of suicide are highest amongst those over the age of 70 worldwide; however suicide is the second leading cause of deaths amongst those between 15 and 27 globally. Suicide attempts are more common in woman standing at close to 3 females attempting suicide to every one male.
This however does not tell the whole story as globally men are far more likely to die from suicide. Almost twice as many men commit suicide as women and disturbingly the gap is beginning to widen in western nations such as the UK or America. Male suicide rates were more than three times higher than female rates in the UK in 2012, at 18.2 male deaths compared with 5.2 female deaths per 100,000 people. This is keeping with a growing trend of men in the UK, between the ages of 30 and 44, taking their own lives at a consistently high rate.
Dr Margaret Chan, the director-general of the WHO, said: “Unfortunately, suicide all too often fails to be prioritised as a major public health problem.” Dr Chan also stated that “Despite an increase in research and knowledge about suicide and its prevention, the taboo and stigma surrounding suicide persist and often people do not seek help or are left alone.” She went on to state that due to this stigma people who are having suicidal thoughts or those who have depression do not get the treatment they need nor is that help effective.
The report concludes with the idea that this problem is not one which can be tackled alone. The individuals with these thoughts of suicide need to be helped by their community and the family who will miss them were they to depart the world. Better data on suicides through death registration, hospital information and surveys is also needed, said the report.
Suicide is preventable. This is not a problem which can be solved using platitudes; nor telling someone to snap out of it. The battle is not easily won and it does not go away after the person begins to feel better. Depression and suicidal thoughts are still seen, especially amongst males, as an admission of weakness, that something has gotten to you somehow and that you should simply “man up” and the problem will go away. The issue is not as simple as that. The World Health Organisation is screaming that this is a legitimate health issue; that people with this disease should be treated with both respect and helped as best we can.
Yet because it is “only in your heads” it must be something they did and therefore can break out of on our own. There are no simple fixes. This should be thought of like an addiction, it might be in your mind but it cannot be fought only with your will. I sincerely hope that the world or at least our government starts seeing this as a health issue and not something which can be swept under the rug.
We are all responsible for this ladies and gentlemen, our friends, our brother, sisters, mothers and fathers may well be dealing with this. If you or anyone you know is having suicidal thoughts please call the suicide prevention helpline at any of the number of people I will list below. Please call, you don’t know how much we will miss you.
Samaritans – 08457 90 90 90 if you are worried about being overheard you can write to them at firstname.lastname@example.org
Childline – 0800 1111
PAPYRUS – 0800 068 41 41
CALM – 0800 58 58 58 a service which focuses on young men