Suicide a leading cause of death among young adults in high-income countries

Suicide accounts for 17.6% of all deaths among people aged 15–29 years in high-income countries. It is thus a leading cause of death among people in this age group. Globally, 8.5% of deaths among young adults are due to suicide.

Today, WHO released a new report: “Preventing suicide: a global imperative”; it reviews current data on suicide attempts and mortality, and what is and what should be done to improve suicide prevention. The WHO European Region includes 33 of the 54 high-income countries identified in the report. WHO/Europe is publishing the report in Russian.

Suicide: preventable

To be effective, national strategies for suicide prevention should ensure cooperation between the health and non-health sectors and involve communities and the mass media. They should also seek to improve the early identification and effective management of mental and substance-use disorders in communities and particularly by health workers.

Reducing access to the means for suicide – including firearms and certain medications – works.

Communities, including schools, play a critical role in suicide prevention. They can provide social support to vulnerable people and engage in follow-up care, raise awareness, fight stigma and support those bereaved by suicide.

For people who have attempted suicide, follow-up care from health workers (regular contact, including telephone calls and home visits) and community support are essential because such people are at the greatest risk of making future attempts.

Responsible reporting of suicide in the media is also important; this includes avoiding language that sensationalizes suicide and explicit descriptions of the methods used.

European Mental Health Action Plan

In 2013, the 53 Member States in the WHO European Region adopted the European Mental Health Action Plan.

It seeks to reduce suicide rates among the population as a whole and in subgroups related to age, sex, ethnicity and other vulnerable groups, and proposes that Member States “develop and implement suicide prevention strategies that incorporate best evidence, combining a universal approach with activities protecting vulnerable groups”.

WHO/Europe supports countries in providing the best evidence to develop strategies for suicide prevention, including supporting the promotion and dissemination of sound educational programmes that cover suicide prevention, stigma and discrimination, alcohol and drug use and dementia.