Across the globe, more than 800,000 people deliberately end their own lives each year. It happens at the alarming rate of about one death every 40 seconds.
That means by the time you have finished reading this editorial, five people will have ended their own lives.
These figures are available through a new report from the World Health Organization (WHO), having just released the first ever global report on suicide.
Thinking about the numbers is mind numbing. Of the many disturbing figures to come out of the report, perhaps learning that suicide is the second leading cause of death among those aged 15-29 is most disconcerting.
Last month, following the suicide of Robin Williams, we ran an editorial speaking of how our society needs to begin to address suicide and in particular, the related issues of depression and mental health. These disturbing findings only emphasize the need for such action.
In fact, the results of the report have led WHO Director General Margaret Chan to refer to the report as a “Call for action to address a large public health problem which has been shrouded in taboo for far too long.”
Chan’s words hit the nail on the head. Indeed, the time is long passed for us to stop treating suicide like a taboo swear word that will go away if we ignore it and confront this problem head-on.
Suicide is not going to go away if we ignore it. As with most problems, the only way to solve this issue is to deal with it directly.
In their report, WHO recommends that governments step up and develop national prevention plans, strategies which currently only 28 countries have. Japan, a country where ‘honourable suicides’ are part of the historic culture (largely because of seppuku, an ancient practice where a samurai who had disgraced himself or his lord would redeem himself through death by his own sword) and has one of the highest suicide rates in the world with more than 30,000 such deaths a year, has vowed to cut suicides by 20% in 10 years.
Many closer to home already have the right idea when it comes to dealing with this problem as well.
Last week, Lacombians gathered at the Lacombe Memorial Centre to begin doing just that. At the Walk for Wellness and Suicide Prevention, speakers opened up about the issue of suicide with many speaking from personal experience. Then, those participating in the walk itself gathered together in a march to show support for those suffering from mental health problems and spreading awareness about the issue of suicide, one many people would rather ignore.
This is exactly the kind of attitude the entire world needs to have if we are to solve the issue of suicide. No more whispering in the dark and sidestepping the issue. It is time for frank discussion and openly acknowledging the problem.
Let’s hope it is an attitude that catches on.