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We observe World Suicide Prevention Day each year on September 10. It’s a growing problem and the numbers tell a shocking story. Every 40 seconds someone takes their own life according to the World Health Organization (WHO). That’s about 800,000 people worldwide every year — although some estimates put that number closer to 1 million.
Suicide is the leading cause of death for people ages 15 to 29 and for every suicide that results in death, there are as many as 40 attempted suicides. What we know for sure is that there’s a lot to live for. Check out more information at National Suicide Prevention Month.
When is World Suicide Prevention Day 2021?
Awareness of the growing yet very much preventable act of suicide is observed on World Suicide Prevention Day on September 10.
History of World Suicide Prevention Day
We lead busy lifestyles and barely get time to sit and actually process our thoughts, which is likely a reason why mental health issues or underlying problems go unassessed. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), suicide is committed somewhere in the world every 40 seconds. Approximately 800,000 people die every year due to suicide. The majority of these occur in underdeveloped and developing countries. These figures are startling, considering that suicide is preventable. Undiagnosed and untreated mental illness is the biggest reason behind suicide.
The International Association for Suicide Prevention (IASP) initiated World Suicide Prevention Day in 2003. The day is co-sponsored by the World Federation for Mental Health and World Health Organization. The aim of the day is to research and collect data on suicidal behavior, determine the various causes and why its signs go unnoticed, and developing sound practices and policies for suicide prevention.
WHO’s global suicide prevention campaign from 1999 was mentioned on the first World Suicide Prevention Day in 2003, citing the following as its main goals:
“The organization of global, regional and national multi-sectoral activities to increase awareness about suicidal behaviors and how to effectively prevent them.”
“The strengthening of countries’ capabilities to develop and evaluate national policies and plans for suicide prevention.”
Events and activities on World Suicide Prevention Day include hosting conferences, seminars, and discussion forums; formulating new policies for suicide prevention; the use of media as a tool for promoting awareness; memorial ceremonies to remember those who lost the battle to mental illness; educating adolescents on suicide and who to reach out to if needed; and establishing support groups and special facility centers as resources for depression and suicide awareness and treatment.
World Suicide Prevention Day timeline
The International Association for Suicide Prevention (IASP) starts in Vienna.
The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) creates the country’s first program aimed at serving all persons at risk of suicide in the U.S. via local, certified crisis centers.
The World Health Organization (WHO) and the International Association for Suicide Prevention organizes the first World Suicide Prevention Day.
The first WHO World Suicide Report, “Preventing Suicide: A Global Imperative,” aims to make suicide prevention a high priority on the global public health agenda.
By The Numbers
30% the percentage increase in the rate of death by suicide in the U.S. between 2000 and 2016.
50% – the percentage increase in suicides among girls and women between 2000 and 2016.
10 – the ranking of suicide as the leading cause of death in the U.S.
47,511 – the number of Americans who died by suicide in 2019.
1.38 million – the number of suicide attempts in the U.S. in 2019.
13.93 – the age-adjusted suicide rate per 100,000 individuals.
3.63x – the number of times that men have had higher suicide rates than women in recent years.
69.38% – the percentage of white males who accounted for suicide deaths in 2019.
50.39% – the percentage of all suicides by firearms.
93% – the percentage of Americans surveyed who think suicide can be prevented.
World Suicide Prevention Day FAQs
Who started World Suicide Prevention Day?
The International Association for Suicide Prevention (IASP) initiated World Suicide Prevention Day in 2003.
What should you do if someone tells you they are thinking about suicide?
Suicide is preventable. If someone is thinking about suicide, it should be taken seriously and non-judgmentally. Help the individual seek a professional, and do not leave them alone. Emergency steps may need to be taken, such as calling 911.
Who is at the highest risk for suicide in the United States?
Caucasian ethnic groups have the highest suicide rate in the United States.
How to Observe World Suicide Prevention Day
Stretch out your hand to someone who may need help. It's widely known that certain behaviors indicate the possibility of suicide. We can all learn the warning signs of suicidal "ideation." If we spot them early enough, we can take action.
Talking about this issue is an important first step in ridding society of the idea that mental health issues should remain hidden. On World Suicide Prevention Day, host or simply attend a panel discussion on how mental problems intensify thoughts of suicide.
Search for resources
World Suicide Prevention Day provides lots of resources for people to learn more about the reasons for suicide and how to prevent them. At your local library, there are countless books, films, and events to get you pointed in the right direction. Knowledge is not only power — knowledge can save someone's life.
5 Sobering Suicide Facts
It's part of a mental health emergency
1 in 15 American adults suffer from depression but the good news is that 80-90% of people respond positively to treatment if depression is correctly diagnosed.
Older people are more likely to die from suicide
Suicide is most common among people between the ages of 45 and 64.
Men complete suicides more often
Still, women are more likely to make an attempt.
Early detection is key
That's why, as WHO points out, "prevention efforts must be comprehensive and integrated as no single approach alone can make an impact."
The clock is ticking
Just about every 12 minutes someone kills themselves in America.
Why World Suicide Prevention Day is Important
Suicide affects all of us
Many people know somebody who has taken their own life. Still others know someone who has lost a friend or family member. World Suicide Prevention Day gives us time to reflect on the value of life and that no matter how bad things seem, there's always hope.
With awareness comes action
One of the main goals of World Suicide Prevention Day is "to increase awareness about suicidal behaviors and how to effectively prevent them," according to WHO. Contact your local suicide prevention hotline if you have a friend who's confided about having suicidal thoughts or you see a social media post about someone's intentions. Take action.
It shines a spotlight on mental health issues
World Suicide Prevention Day is a reminder that society needs consistent and increasing advocacy for mental health resources so that people struggling with mental health disorders can find the help they need. If you live in the United States, learn the signs a person shows when thinking about committing suicide by finding out more on the National Suicide Prevention Month website.
World Suicide Prevention Day dates