A fact sheet released by the World Health Organization last week shows that close to 8 lakh people die due to suicide every year. In other words, suicides account for one death every 40 seconds. Another important fact that often gets missed is that behind every successful suicide, there are more than 20 attempts at taking one’s life.
Chart 1 provides the regional spread of suicide rates. Against a global average of 10.53 deaths due to suicide (per 100,000 population) Europe tends to register the maximum deaths due to suicide while Eastern Mediterranean reports the lowest average. However, even within each region, there are wide disparities. For instance, as chart 2 shows, India and Pakistan report very different levels of suicide rates.
Chart 2 shows country-specific rates of a wide variety of countries both in terms of geography and resource allocation as well as in terms of economic prosperity. It ranks India next to some of the other countries most comparable to it such as Indonesia, Brazil and China. Russia’s data stands out for being over four times the global average.
The report said that while suicide happens throughout the lifespan, it was the second leading cause of death among 15- to 29-year-olds. Chart 3 shows the break-up of the number of suicides globally among young people. The leading cause for death in this age group is road injury (for men) and maternal conditions (for women).
While the link between suicide and mental disorders, especially depression and alcohol use, is well established, WHO finds that many suicides happen during a crisis and because of an individual’s inability to deal with stress. However, by far, WHO states, “the strongest risk factor for suicide is a previous suicide attempt”.
As far as methods of suicides are concerned, almost 20 per cent of all suicides are due to pesticide self-poisoning. The use of pesticide points to the setting where such suicides happen – rural agricultural areas in low- and middle-income countries. Other common methods are hanging and firearms.