Suicide prevention hampered by mental health stigma

Posted on September 10, 2013

Today is World Suicide Prevention Day, co-sponsored by the International Association for Suicide Prevention and the World Health Organisation. First observed in 2003, the theme of this year's event is "Stigma: A Major Barrier to Suicide Prevention". According to the WHO, suicide is a major public health problem in high-income countries and an emerging problem in low- and middle-income nations.

It is among the top 20 causes of death in the world, with some 800,000 suicides each year, many of them young people. That's around one death every 40 seconds. The number of suicide deaths each year exceeds the number of lives lost to homicide and war combined. These staggering figures do not include suicide attempts, which occur much more frequently.

Stigma is also the underlying motive for discrimination in the form of inappropriate or unlawful restrictions on the freedoms of individuals with mental illnesses or suicidal behaviour. Such restrictions can be evident at a personal, community or institutional level.

One extreme example is the criminalisation of suicidal behaviour, which still occurs in many countries. Discrimination can prevent or discourage people with mental illnesses or suicidal thoughts or behaviour from seeking professional help or from returning to their normal social roles after receiving treatment.

Massive public education programmes have been of limited use in reducing the stigma associated with mental illness and suicide. New, innovative methods that target specific groups or that creatively use social media need to be developed and tested.

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Category(s):Suicide Prevention

Source material from South China Morning Post

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