In Focus

700 000 people die by suicide every year: Lancet


Only 38 countries had national suicide prevention strategies in 2021, according to WHO

More than 700,000 people worldwide commit suicide each year, and 77 percent of these fatalities take place in low- and middle-income nations, making suicide the most extreme manifestation of the global mental health epidemic, a latest Lancet report reveals.

Suicide is the fourth leading cause of death among people aged 15–29 years.  

At least 20 countries still have laws that make suicide a criminal offence and many of these laws date back more than a century and are a legacy of British colonial rule. The countries such as the Bahamas, Kenya, Bangladesh, Malawi, and Ghana  have laws that criminalise suicide. The UK decriminalised suicide in 1961. In countries where suicide is illegal, people who attempt suicide can be arrested and prosecuted. They can be punished with fines and could also face 1–3 years in prison.

According to WHO, the criminalisation of suicide attempts does not deter suicidal behaviour, but it does lead to these attempts being under-reported, making it more difficult to address the issue. 

Crucially, criminalisation and the fear of punishment deter people from seeking the mental health support that they need. Many countries do little to help individuals overcome suicidal ideation or to help those who have attempted suicide.

WHO reported that in 2021, only 38 countries had national suicide prevention strategies. India announced its new national suicide prevention strategy in November, 2022.

The Lancet report suggests that as a first step to developing a suicide prevention strategy, countries need clear and comprehensive data on suicide. WHO recommends the registration of deaths by suicide, hospital-based registries of suicide attempts, and nationally representative surveys on self-reported suicide attempts.

Also read : No, the majority of suicides are not impulsive!

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