According to data provided by the World Health Organization (WHO), more than 800,000 people die from suicide each year and many more commit the unsuccessful attempt. In 2001, worldwide suicides exceeded homicides (500,000) and war deaths (230,000), while in the vast majority of countries they were the leading cause of unnatural deaths before accidents in the road, the traffic or the killings.
It is clear that we are talking about a very serious public health problem, which, even today, remains a taboo subject for most of the governments and societies which suffer from it, as well as for the families concerned. What are we doing to prevent part of the population from killing themselves? Below we will see what they are measures known to reduce suicide rate.
Suicide stigma and taboo
First, to know how to intervene in the generalization of suicide attempts, it must be borne in mind that it is complicated to investigate this subject, As it is covered by taboo and stigma. From the data we have seen, many more cases that are presumed to be officially reported as a result of a death by suicide is a very sensitive issue, even illegal in some countries, and may remain poorly classified under deaths by ” traffic accidents ”” or “heart attack. “
Studies on this aspect, such as those by psychologist Thomas Joiner, show that more than 40% of people who have lost a loved one to suicide he would lie about it to hide the truth.
The registration of a suicide case is a complex procedure that involves several different authorities, including the police, health workers, relatives and the media, who do not always deal with the facts with the transparency and the information necessary to coordinate their prevention.
The Werther effect and information restriction
Central to these difficulties is the stigma associated with mental disorders and suicidal behavior, fostered primarily by fear and ignorance. One of the main pillars of disinformation is the well-known Werther effect.
The Werther effect (or its variants “copycat”, “domino”, “call”, among others) is taken from the novel The Sorrows of the Young Werther written by Johann Wolfgang Von Goethe in 1774, where the protagonist suffers so much from love that he decides to end his life. This behavior was copiously imitated by many young people of the time, to the point that the novel was banned by the authorities.
Sociologist David Phillips later conducted a similar study between 1947 and 1968 showing that when the New York Times reported on suicide, suicide increased across the country the following month.
In reality, the idea that suicide seems “contagious”That is, if a famous person commits suicide or similar news comes to light, it will cause other people to view suicide as a desirable option, it is very difficult to prove and the studies that make it known are contradictory. Suicide rates have remained stable over time, as evidenced by statistics available from the 19th century, which has led to a worldwide agreement among all specialists on the most common causes.
The main causes of suicide
The main risk factors include: mental illness, depression and psychosis disorders, as well as drug use and addiction, Chronic medical illnesses with pain and, finally, major life crises, the most frequent being in 60% of cases, the breakup of the couple (in the end, we continue to commit suicide for love), preceded by problems in the environment family and financial problems.
Social isolation, uprooting and lack of emotional ties with peers should also be mentioned.
So to what extent can talking about suicide help people who find themselves in these situations and think about them over and over again? Certainly, informing and raising awareness can lead a person who conceived to end their life to act like that drop that spills the glass, but in turn, it’s the only way people know they can ask for help when he has reached that point and the only answer he can find is silence.
According to psychiatrist and suicide expert Carmen Tejedor, responsible for the first suicide prevention plan carried out in Spain, to avoid it is necessary to allow people to talk about suicide.
Attempts to end his own life
No one wants to die; the idea that suicide is an act of free will understood as the person voluntarily deciding his actions stems from a romantic conception of personal freedom. There is no freedom in suicide, only constant and intense despair until the individual he sees his death as the only way to escape suffering.
For every suicide committed, there are between 20 and 30 people who risk their lives to try to end it. These attempts are the approaches that the individual takes, tries, to see how to deal with fear, physical pain and break with their own sense of self-preservation. The expression is false: “the one who did not succeed in committing suicide, it is because he really would not do it”. If a person has attempted suicide once, it is very possible that they will try again and the next attempt may be successful.
Psychological intervention and prevention
Faced with most attempts or unsuccessful attempts, options may be open, including pharmacological and psychological treatments by which many people are discovering new reasons to continue living. It is estimated that without a proper suicide prevention plan, 30% of those affected will repeat the attempt, but with specialized intervention, only 10% will.
The role of society is crucial, currently a few countries have included suicide prevention among their health priorities and only 28 countries have indicated that they have a national suicide prevention strategy.
The most direct measures consisted of restricting information and restricting lethal means. (Such as the selection of disclosure of information on suicides, over-the-counter drugs, stopping the use of barbiturates …). It has been shown that if a person initiates suicidal behavior, but it is interrupted or unreachable, they do not tend to run to another place to end it. Limiting access to deadly means results in practice in the installation of physical barriers in risk areas such as the windows of certain hotels and bridges.
However, we must go further and bet on the coordination of institutions. First, communicate responsibly in the media to break down stigma, especially around mental disorders and suicide. The absence of this responsibility prevents people who are considering suicide or who have tried to get it from receiving the help they need.
Second, compared to the above, having reliable information makes it possible to deepen the study of suicidal behavior in order to prevent it (only 60 Member States have good quality civil status data that can be used directly to estimate suicide rates), including civilians. suicide records, hospital records and nationally representative studies.
Finally, it should be noted that the WHO’s first global report on suicide< Prévention du suicide: un impératif mondial >> published in 2014, aims to raise awareness of the importance of suicides and suicide attempts, as well as the urgent need to develop comprehensive prevention. strategies within the framework of a multisectoral approach to public health so that Member States have succeeded in stabilizing national suicide rates by 10% by 2020.