COVID-19 pandemic increasing risk factors for suicide, WHO warns

Novel COVID-19 has exacerbated risk factors associated with suicidal behaviours, such as job loss, trauma or abuse, mental health disorders and barriers to accessing health care, the global health agency warned. Furthermore, it added that globally, one in 100 deaths is reported by suicide, making it among the leading causes of death worldwide and the fourth leading cause of death among 15- to 29-year-olds.

“Suicide is an urgent public health problem and its prevention must be a national priority,” said Renato Oliveira e Souza, head of the Mental Health Unit at the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO). “We need concrete action from all elements of society to put an end to these deaths, and for governments to create and invest in a comprehensive national strategy to improve suicide prevention and care,” he added.

More people die from suicide than HIV, malaria, cancer, says WHO
On the World Suicide Prevention Day organized by the International Association for Suicide Prevention (IASP), WHO stated, that more people die each year from suicide than from HIV, malaria, or breast cancer, or from war and homicide, and COVID-19 has made matters worse. It announced that this year’s theme is ‘Creating hope through action’ which focuses on the need for collective action to address the issue. The global health agency also published guidance that supports national efforts to help reduce the global suicide rate by one-third by 2030, in line with the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

WHO informed that people must be watchful about the warnings such as some of the verbal or behavioural signs for suicide which includes— talking about wanting to die, feeling immense guilt or shame, or feeling like a burden to others. Other signs are feeling empty, hopeless or trapped, or having no reason to live, or feeling extremely sad, anxious, agitated, or full of anger.

Meanwhile, researching ways to die, staying away from friends, giving away important items, showing extreme mood swings, eating or sleeping too much or too little, and using drugs or alcohol more often are also among the immediate warning signs about suicide. “Anyone who detects warning signs of suicide, whether in themselves or in someone they know, should seek help from a health care professional as soon as possible,” WHO stated. It further educated on key prevention measures that limit access to means of suicide, such as firearms and pesticides, as well as early identification, assessment, management and follow-up of people affected by suicidal thoughts and behaviours. Other actions include fostering adolescent social-emotional skills and educating the media in responsible reporting on suicide. – ada derana

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