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 aged 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 National Suicide Prevention Month for more information.
This year’s theme is all about ‘Creating Hope Through Action.’ So, let’s work together with our family, friends, healthcare workers, religious and political leaders to prevent suicide through active counseling and support. It’s time we empowered others to be in charge of their lives and value the one life they have.
Did you know that suicide is the tenth leading cause of death in the United States? It affects all age groups equally. It’s important therefore to have discussions around mental health, making it easier for others to talk about the tough times they are going through and seek professional help if necessary.
When is World Suicide Prevention Day 2023?
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.
IASP wanted to create awareness by informing the public how to identify the warning signs of someone who is contemplating suicide and reach out to them before it’s too late. Because the initiative has done so well, WHO partnered with it from its second year onwards.
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.”
IASP and WHO aim to communicate to society that anyone can dissuade someone from ending their life through the openly endorsed message, ‘Take a Minute, Change a Life.’ Both organizations empower us to help those who suffer from depression and raise funds in support of mental health. This is why National Suicide Awareness Day has gained traction. In 2020, a global cycling event hosted in more than 40 countries raised around $12,000. WHO has also been connecting with survivors of suicide to share their stories through its Light a Candle Campaign. As of today, IASP has experts and volunteers from nearly 77 countries.
Events and activities on World Suicide Prevention Day include 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.
In 2017, the famous rapper Logic created awareness of the suicide helpline number through his song, ‘1-800-273-8255.’ The song which is about a person who seeks help for his suicidal thoughts created an uptick in the number of calls to suicide helpline numbers. Around the same time, reports of celebrity deaths increased suicides by 13%.
World Suicide Prevention Day timeline
The International Association for Suicide Prevention (IASP) starts in Vienna.
For his active research and numerous publications in esteemed journals in the field of suicide prevention, Erwin Stengel is given this prestigious award. To be nominated for this award, one has to be active in research for at least 10 years.
The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMSHA) starts establishing crisis centers across the USA to instill hope in those who have suicidal thoughts.
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 organize the first World Suicide Prevention Day.
To sensitize the public even further, IASP comes up with this theme and reiterates the point that although suicide is impulsive, the reasons that might have pushed someone to consider it varies according to different cultures. Countries like Latin America have reportedly the lowest numbers of self-inflicted deaths.
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
You can observe the day by being there for someone you don’t know but who is likely to suffer from depression that may lead to suicide. A simple gesture such as buying food for the homeless has a lasting positive effect. Reach out 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 health problems intensify thoughts of suicide. Every year, IASP’s theme changes, and it makes sense to hold a local event that is on par with the theme.
Search for resources
World Suicide Prevention Day provides a lot of resources for people to learn more about the reasons for suicide and how to prevent them. You will find countless books, films, and events online to point you in the right direction. Knowledge is not only power — it can save someone's life. From hosting survivor talks to cycling rallies, you can come up with events that will encourage others to participate with their family and donate to NGOs.
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 commit suicide more often
Men commit suicide more often than women, but women are more likely to attempt it.
Globally, the number of suicides is increasing every year.
In the last 45 years, the number of cases has risen by 60%
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 or someone who has lost a friend or family member to suicide. World Suicide Prevention Day is a 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 in you about having suicidal thoughts or you see a concerning social media post. Knowledge makes us more sensitive to the issues in our society. Awareness about the numbers and causes of suicides helps us to not normalize attributing factors such as depression. Most of us are not satisfied with just earning a living. When we volunteer for causes like this where we get to be someone’s hero, it enables us to feel like we have a purpose.
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. Learn about the warning signs of suicide on the National Suicide Prevention Month website. Not only does National Suicide Awareness Day help us to identify warning signs in those closest to us, but also ourselves. It heightens our emotional intelligence and helps us learn to be more resilient.
World Suicide Prevention Day dates