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More people now die of suicide than malaria, HIV or cancer – Report

Suicide has been identified as one of the leading causes of death worldwide.

According to the World Health Organisation’s  latest estimates, published on Thursday tagged “Suicide worldwide in 2019,” more people die as a result of suicide than HIV, malaria or breast cancer – or war and homicide every year.

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It said, “In 2019, more than 700 000 people died by suicide: one in every 100 deaths, prompting WHO to produce new guidance to help countries improve suicide prevention and care.”

Releasing a guideline on suicide, the the Director-General of the World Health Organisation, Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus,said “We cannot – and must not – ignore suicide.”

“Each one is a tragedy.  Our attention to suicide prevention is even more important now, after many months living with the COVID-19 pandemic, with many of the risk factors for suicide   ̶   job loss, financial stress and social isolation – still very much present.  The new guidance that WHO is releasing today provides a clear path for stepping up suicide prevention efforts,” he explained.

Among young people aged 15-29, suicide was the fourth leading cause of death after road injury, tuberculosis and interpersonal violence.

Rates vary, between countries, regions, and between males and females.

More than twice as many males die due to suicide as females (12.6 per 100 000 males compared with 5.4 per 100 000 females).  Suicide rates among men are generally higher in high-income countries (16.5 per 100 000).

For females, the highest suicide rates are found in lower-middle-income countries (7.1 per 100 000).

Suicide rates in the WHO African (11.2 per 100 000), European (10.5 per 100 000) and South-East Asia (10.2 per 100 000) regions were higher than the global average (9.0 per 100 000) in 2019.  The lowest suicide rate was in the Eastern Mediterranean region (6.4 per 100 000).

Globally, the suicide rate is decreasing; in the Americas it is going up

Suicide rates fell in the 20 years between 2000 and 2019, with the global rate decreasing by 36%, with decreases ranging from 17% in the Eastern Mediterranean Region to 47% in the European Region and 49% in the Western Pacific.

But in the Americas Region, rates increased by 17% in the same time period.

Although some countries have placed suicide prevention high on their agendas, too many countries remain uncommitted.  Currently only 38 countries are known to have a national suicide prevention strategy.

WHO said a significant acceleration in the reduction of suicides is needed to meet the SDG target of a one-third reduction in the global suicide rate by 2030.

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