On the 10th September since 2003, World Suicide Prevention Day has been organised by the International Association for Suicide Prevention. A day which aims at opening up conversations about suicide, and help those in darkness. According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), every 40 seconds a person dies from suicide, resulting in approximately 800,000 deaths globally each year, making suicide the second leading cause of death among 15 to 29 year-olds. In addition, 65,000 people attempt suicide each year and hundreds and thousands have suicidal ideations. Unfortunately, suicide all too often fails to be prioritised as a major public health problem.
WHO developed their first ever Mental Health Action Plan for the years 2013 to 2020 with the overall aim to enhance research on mental health in order to create a world which is more effective at preventing and in tackling mental health problems. Suicide prevention is an integral part of the plan, with the goal of reducing the rate of suicide in countries by 10% by 2020.
Whilst there is no single explanation for suicide and most suicides happen impulsively, WHO sees suicide as a result of the connection between social, psychological and cultural factors, amongst others. To begin with, the health care itself fails those that need it due to difficulties in accessing it and in receiving the care needed. Easy availability to means of suicide, inappropriate media reporting on suicide, war and disaster, stresses of acculturation discrimination, a sense of isolation, abuse, violence and conflictual relationships are all suicidal risk factors. Risk factors at the individual level are also present. Mental illnesses, problems with alcohol and drugs, unusual thoughts and behaviour or confusion about reality, unstable relationships and / or trouble with the law, impulsivity and aggression, family history of suicide attempt and / or mental disorder are all suicidal risk factors. Having attempted suicide is the greatest individual risk factor. On the other hand receiving effective mental health care, having positive connections to family and peers, belonging to a community and social institutions are said to foster resilience.
Taking certain actions such as restricting access to the means of suicide, easier access to health care services, awareness of suicide as a public health issue and promotion of mental health amongst others, can indeed prevent suicide at a global level. This is a change which requires the cooperation and collaboration between multiple sectors, and thus we need governments and policy makers that support this to make change happen.
One of the objectives behind the European Federation of Psychology Students’ Associations (EFPSA) is to offer our psychological knowledge in order to make a positive and significant impact on society. As the saying goes “actions speak louder than words”, in fact, since 2013, the Social Impact Initiative team within EFPSA developed and introduced different projects: “Mind the Mind – to Combat the Stigma of Mental Disorders”, “Organised Acts of Kindness”, and “Better Together”. These successful projects have reached thousands of people across Europe; EFPSA has educated people on mental health, and contributed in creating a more understanding and acceptable society, socially aware and kinder Europe in order to prevent and create a safe place for people to talk about their emotions and mental state, and ultimately increasing wellbeing with the hope of decreasing suicide. In addition, EFPSA is also currently developing a policy on suicide prevention which will include the voice of psychological students at a European level.
On 10th September in the evening people light candles to show support for suicide prevention, to remember a loved one, and for the survivors of suicide. You, reading this position paper take a moment in silence, and keep in mind the people that suffer silently, maybe you might be one of them.
Stay! Talk! Help is out there.
(National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-8255)