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15 years after the UN publication “Prevention of Suicide: Guidelines for the formulation and implementation of national strategies”, the WHO issued a new report based on evidence gathered since 2006 aims at assisting governments in developing strategies for the prevention of suicide. EPHA summarises the report below.

Suicide is one of the three principal causes of death among people aged 15 to 44 years old. While it represented 1.8% of the total disease burden in 1998, this figure is expected to rise to 2,4% by 2020, which makes the need to implement immediate action even more pressing.

The WHO report proposes a stepwise approach in developing a suicide prevention strategy which contains the following stages:

Identifying stakeholders – Suicide management needs an interdisciplinary approach involving not only health care professionals but also representatives from other sectors.

Undertaking a situation analysis – incidence of suicide, socio-demographic factors, most commonly used methods and reasons for suicides must be known.

Assessing the requirement and availability of resources – this part is divided between the human and financial requirements for implementing a strategy, currently available resources, identifying gaps and ways to find suitable solutions to fill those gaps.

Achieving political commitment – essentially needed to ensure that a prevention programme receives appropriate resources.

Addressing stigma – that could be the reason why people with a history of attempting suicide do not search for specialised help.

Increasing awareness – developing a strategy could be a good opportunity to increase awareness about suicide prevention. Informing stakeholders about progress through media can be a vital move in implementing the strategy.

Key components

For national suicide prevention strategies to be most effective there are a number of crucial elements that should be implemented: Clear objectives (both short and long-term) and a clear timeframe should be settled in the sphere of financial and human resources. Relevant risk and protective factors are other key components which can suggest the type of interventions required.

The WHO report points out three evidence-based strategies at the population level:
• Restricting access to means of self-harm/suicide,
• Implementing policies to reduce harmful use of alcohol,
• Encouraging media to report practices of suicide responsibly.

The need to specifically target at risk population groups as well as to improve data management, monitoring and evaluation of the quality and effectiveness of particular interventions are elements that have also been emphasised in the report.

While suicide is a major public health threat of collective responsibility, it is also largely preventable. Prevention strategies, with proven benefits, should become a priority for public health authorities. In this regard, multi-sectoral interventions represent the most effective way to proceed.

– Read the full report – Public health action for the prevention of suicide (Number of pages: 26)
EPHA-related articles

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