World Suicide Prevention Day: 15th Annual Event Takes Aim at Illustrating the Importance of Mental Health

World Suicide Prevention Day, an event taking place under the theme "Working Together to Prevent Suicide," is being supported Monday by campaigners, politicians and celebs.

Launched in 2003 by the International Association for Suicide Prevention (IASP), partnered with the World Health Organization (WHO), the date of September 10 is annually used to raise awareness surrounding the conditions that lead to 800,000 deaths every year.

"We [chose] this theme as it highlights the most essential ingredient for effective global suicide prevention-collaboration," the IASP said in a release. "We all have a role to play and together we can collectively address the challenges presented by suicidal behavior in society."

According to WHO statistics, using the last recorded dataset from 2016, suicide is the second-leading cause of death among those 15–29 years old. Evidence demonstrates it is a global issue, with more than 79 percent of suicides occurring in low and middle-income countries.

Holding hands
Suicide is the second-leading cause of death among those 15–29 years old, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). iStock

Analysis compiled by Statista, released today, shows that Russia had the highest rate of suicide per 100,000 population in 2016, followed by Ukraine, South Korea, Poland and Belgium.

Experts warn that suicide remains among the top 20 leading causes of death globally for people of all ages. The 800,000 figure equates to one suicide every 40 seconds, statistics show.

The IASP said that campaigners can take part in World Suicide Prevention Day in myriad ways.

"Raise awareness about the issue, educate yourself and others about the causes of suicide and warning signs for suicide, show compassion and care for those who are in distress in your community," a September 10 release stated, adding: "Question the stigma associated with suicide, suicidal behavior and mental health problems and share your own experiences."

Statista - Suicide Rates
Statista chart shows suicide rates around the world with figures showing the estimated rate of suicide per 100,000 population in selected countries in 2016. Statista

Social networking websites were swamped with supportive comments, while some celebrities— including Stephen Fry—published links to Twitter detailing awareness campaigns. An open letter was circulated asking for changes in how suicide is portrayed by media outlets.

"We still read that a person has 'committed suicide', suggesting suicide is either a sin or a crime, or both. It has not been a crime in the UK since 1961," the campaigners stated.

"We call on all sections of the media to replace the phrase 'commit suicide' with alternatives, such as 'died by suicide', and to embed this change into their style guides," the letter, signed by more than 130 journalists, politicians and campaigners and later published online, added.

Comedian Mark Watson wrote on twitter under the hashtag #WorldSuicidePreventionDay: "If you resist the urge to kill yourself, a day will come when you think 'thank god I didn't'. Maybe not quickly but it does come. It did for me, it does for everyone. Keep going."

The WHO released a step-by-step guide for people who would like to initiate suicide prevention activities in their community, titled "Preventing suicide: a community engagement toolkit."

"We can all play a role"

The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention has listed a slew of events that have been organized for the next seven days. They include live streams on Facebook and Twitter.

"Although there is no single cause of suicide, one of the risks for suicide is social isolation, and there's scientific evidence for reducing suicide risk by making sure we connect with one another," the group said on its website. "We can all play a role through the power of connection by having real conversations about mental health with people in everyday moments."

Experts said that many suicides happen impulsively during moments of crisis. These can include "a breakdown in the ability to deal with life stresses, such as financial problems, relationship break-up or chronic pain and illness," the WHO said in a report, released August 2018.

Despite stigma around the subject, suicides are often preventable, the organization said. World Suicide Prevention Day may not solve the problem altogether, but it aims to save lives.

"Joining together is critical to preventing suicide," the IASP stressed.

If you have thoughts of suicide, confidential help is available for free at the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. Call 1-800-273-8255. The line is available 24 hours, every day.