Suicide has claimed more victims, particularly among the elderly, than natural wars or disaster, the World Health Organisation, WHO, has said. WHO in a report, on Thursday, blamed the increasing suicide rate on
intense media coverage that attend celebrities who kill themselves.
Shekhar Saxena, director of WHO’s mental health department, said, “Suicide is an amazing public health problem. There is one suicide every 40 seconds – it is a huge number.
“Suicide kills more than conflicts, wars and natural catastrophes.
“There are 1.5 million violent deaths every year in the world, of which 800,000 are suicides,” she said
The report shows that the highest rates of suicide are committed in central and eastern Europe, and in Asia, with 25 per cent occurring in rich countries. It adds that men are almost twice as likely as women to take their own lives, with the common methods being are hanging, gunshots, and especially in rural areas the use of poisonous insecticides.
“Globally, suicide rates are highest in people aged 70 years and over. In some countries, however, the highest rates are found among the young.
“Notably, suicide is the second leading cause of death in 15-29 year-olds globally,” WHO said.
Alexandra Fleischmann, one of the report’s co-authors, placed partial blame for rising rates of suicide on the publicity given to suicides by famous people, such as Hollywood actor Robin Williams. The Oscar-winning star, who had suffered from depression, was found dead at his home on August 1, prompting an outpouring of emotion from the public and widespread media coverage.
Ella Arensman, president of the International Association for Suicide Prevention, said that after news broke of Williams’ death she received “five emails of people who had recovered (from a) suicide crisis and saying that they are thinking again about suicide”. “These overwhelming reports can have a contagion effect on vulnerable people,” she said, referring also to the “sharp increase” in suicides after German football player Robert Enke killed himself in 2009.
“Suicide should not be glamourised or sensationalised,” Fleischmann said, urging news outlets not to mention suicide as the cause of death at the start of reports, but only at the end. WHO, which called suicide a major public health problem that must be confronted and stemmed, studied 172 countries to produce the report, which took a decade to research.