Background

The World Health Organisation (WHO) estimates that each year approximately one million people die from suicide, which represents a global mortality rate of 16 people per 100,000 or one death every 40 seconds. It is predicted that by 2020 the rate of death will increase to one every 20 seconds.

The WHO further reports that:

  • In the last 45 years suicide rates have increased by 60% worldwide. Suicide is now among the three leading causes of death among those aged 15-44 (male and female). Suicide attempts are up to 20 times more frequent than completed suicides.
  • Although suicide rates have traditionally been highest amongst elderly males, rates among young people have been increasing to such an extent that they are now the group at highest risk in a third of all countries.
  • Mental health disorders (particularly depression and substance abuse) are associated with more than 90% of all cases of suicide.
  • However, suicide results from many complex sociocultural factors and is more likely to occur during periods of socioeconomic, family and individual crisis (e.g. loss of a loved one, unemployment, sexual orientation, difficulties with developing one's identity, disassociation from one's community or other social/belief group, and honour).

The WHO also states that:

  • In Europe, particularly Eastern Europe, the highest suicide rates are reported for both men and women.
  • The Eastern Mediterranean Region and Central Asia republics have the lowest suicide rates.
  • Nearly 30% of all suicides worldwide occur in India and China.
  • Suicides globally by age are as follows: 55% are aged between 15 to 44 years and 45% are aged 45 years and over.
  • Youth suicide is increasing at the greatest rate.

In the US, the Centre of Disease Control and Prevention reports that:

  • Overall, suicide is the eleventh leading cause of death for all US Americans, and is the third leading cause of death for young people 15-24 years.
  • Although suicide is a serious problem among the young and adults, death rates continue to be highest among older adults ages 65 years and over.
  • Males are four times more likely to die from suicide than are females. However, females are more likely to attempt suicide than are males.

Suicide within minority groups

Research indicates that suicide rates appear to be increasing within native and indigenous populations such as the Native Americans in the US and Alaska, and the Aborigines in Australia and New Zealand.

Suicide rates within migrant communities such as African and East Asian Americans or the Black British community are, also of growing concern. Statistics show a rise but in some countries it can be difficult to calculate. For example, in the UK the place of birth is recorded on the death certificate, not ethnicity, therefore reducing data on suicides amongst minority groups.

For further information about indigenous populations:
Suicide Among Minority Groups - www.the-bright-side.org
Aboriginal Communities - www.suicideinfo.ca

Sources of Statistics

Statistics about suicide are difficult to collate, and may be inaccurate because of the sensitivity of the issue, particularly in countries where suicide is an absolute taboo. You can find suicide statistics on the following sites:

Mind useful fact sheets on suicide statistics
University of Oxford Centre for suicide research
Office for National Statistics - trends in suicide rates

Suicide Prevention

Many countries recognise the need and positive impact of Suicide Prevention Strategies, and are working to ensure they are in place.

The WHO States:

  • Strategies involving restriction of access to common methods of suicide have proved to be effective in reducing suicide rates. However, there is a need to adopt multi-sectoral approaches involving other levels of intervention and activities, such as crisis centres.
  • There is compelling evidence indicating that adequate prevention and treatment of depression, alcohol and substance abuse can reduce suicide rates.
  • School-based interventions involving crisis management, self-esteem enhancement and the development of coping skills and healthy decision making have been demonstrated to reduce the risk of suicide among the youth.
  • The International Association for Suicide Prevention (IASP) www.med.uio.no/iasp/index provides a forum for national and local organisations, researchers, volunteers, clinicians and professionals to share knowledge, provide support and to collaborate in suicide prevention around the world.

Further suicide prevention links:

Suicide Prevention (SUPRE) - www.who.int/mental_health/prevention
Centers of Disease Control and Prevention - www.cdc.gov
Suicide Prevention among Native Americans - www.ihs.gov - click onto ‘Nationwide Programs and Initiatives'.
World Federation for Mental Health (WFMH) - www.wfmh.com