Stigma, particularly surrounding mental disorders and suicide, means many people thinking of taking their own life or who have attempted suicide are not seeking help and are therefore not getting the help they need. The prevention of suicide has not been adequately addressed due to a lack of awareness of suicide as a major public health problem and the taboo in many societies to openly discuss it.
Raising community awareness and breaking down the taboo is important for countries to make progress in preventing suicide.
Media reports of suicide can lead to a rise in suicide due to imitation (or copycat suicides) – especially if the report is about a celebrity or describes the method of suicide.
More than 700 000 people die due to suicide every year.
Suicide occurs throughout the lifespan and was the fourth leading cause of death among 15-29 year-olds globally in 2019.
77% of global suicides occur in low- and middle-income countries.
Ingestion of pesticide, hanging and firearms are among the most common methods of suicide globally.
For every suicide there are many more people who attempt suicide.
More than twice as many males die due to suicide as females (12.6 per 100 000 males compared with 5.4 per 100 000 females).
Suicide rates among men are generally higher in high-income countries (16.5 per 100 000).
For females, the highest suicide rates are found in lower-middle-income countries (7.1 per 100 000).
Suicide rates in the WHO African (11.2 per 100 000), European (10.5 per 100 000) and South-East Asia (10.2 per 100 000) regions were higher than the global average (9.0 per 100 000) in 2019. The lowest suicide rate was in the Eastern Mediterranean region (6.4 per 100 000).
Currently only 38 countries are known to have a national suicide prevention strategy. A significant acceleration in the reduction of suicides is needed to meet the SDG target of a one-third reduction in the global suicide rate by 2030.
A prior suicide attempt is the single most important risk factor for suicide in the general population.
Other risk factors include:
- Mental disorders (Depression, alcohol use disorders)
- Breakdown in ability to deal with life stresses (financial problems, relationship break up, chronic pain and illness)
- Experiencing conflict, disaster, violence, abuse, or loss and a sense of isolation
- Vulnerable groups experiencing discrimination (refugees and migrants; indigenous peoples; lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex (LGBTI) persons; and prisoners)
Methods of suicide
- Pesticide self-poisoning (20% of global suicides)
Prevention and Control
Suicides are preventable. There are a number of measures that can be taken at population, sub-population and individual levels to prevent suicide and suicide attempts. LIVE LIFE, WHO’s approach to suicide prevention, recommends the following key effective evidence-based interventions:
- limit access to the means of suicide (e.g. pesticides, firearms, certain medications);
- interact with the media for responsible reporting of suicide;
- foster socio-emotional life skills in adolescents;
- early identify, assess, manage and follow up anyone who is affected by suicidal behaviours.
These need to go hand-in-hand with the following foundational pillars: situation analysis, multisectoral collaboration, awareness raising,-capacity building, financing, surveillance and monitoring and evaluation.
Early identification, assessment, management and follow-up applies to people who have attempted suicide or are perceived to be at risk.
Link to WHO fact sheet on suicide:
Link to related WHO news release:
Link to WHO Report ‘Suicide Worldwide in 2019’:
Link to LIVE LIFE (WHO’s suicide prevention strategy: