The World Health Organization (WHO) is out with a must read report today. For the first time ever, the WHO has compiled a comprehensive report on suicides and the suicide rate in countries around the world. The WHO estimates around 800,000 suicides around the world, every year. That works out to one person every 40 seconds. Collectively, we must do better on mental health issues.

What drives a suicide rate in a country? The report shows that a country’s social, cultural, religious and economic environments play a heavy role in its corresponding suicide rate.

The WHO report shows that criminalizing the act of suicide does nothing to prevent it. India, the nation with an above-average suicide rate, has criminalized it to little effect. The rate in India is nearly double the worldwide average, with 21 deaths per 100,000. The average worldwide is 11 deaths per 100,000.

While 800,000 is a staggering number, it pales in comparison with those that attempt and fail. Those that try and fail at suicide are at the biggest risk for suicide later in life. There is no bigger cry for mental health than a person attempting suicide. Mental health is a stigma even in the most developed countries. That has to change. Governments need to pick up the proverbial ball and move on it.

Right now, only 28 countries have a national suicide prevention strategy. Even those that have it are often times underfunded or under utilized. Friends of people that are having a tough time need to step in. If the person gets angry, so be it. You saved a life, and they will get over it.

Dr. Shekhar Saxena, the author of the report, talked about the transitory nature of suicides. “Suicidal tendencies are transitory. People who have an intense desire to commit suicide grab the nearest possible means. If you can restrict their access even for a few hours, you can save a lot of lives. People think about it and talk to people and decide not to do it.”

Suicide is the second leading cause of death among young people, age 15-29. The rate increases again with people over the age of 50. It is more common in men than women, and that disparity grows as you move into developed countries.

Three-quarters of all suicides occur in low-to-middle income countries. The highest rates are in central Europe and Asia. North Korea’s suicide rate is 39.5, but South Korea barely trails it at 36.6 per 100,000.

The WHO is pushing all countries to have better prevention strategies. Measures such as removing the means to suicide have seen success. Painkillers are one of the biggest options in the United States, but hydrocodone has been moved to a more restrictive prescription environment. It was moved to Schedule II this year, making it harder to receive the drug for long durations without seeing your doctor.

Governments needs to move faster to remove the stigma of mental health, and make it easier for people to ask for help.

For those of you needing to talk to someone, or may know someone that needs help, please call 1-800-273-8255.

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