World Suicide Prevention Day – engaging communities

Andrea Rhein

World Suicide Prevention Day is marked each year to draw attention to the large and avertable burden of self-harm and suicide. Based on WHO’s newly released Global Health Estimates for 2016, close to 800 000 people died by suicide in 2016, equivalent to 10.8 suicides per 100 000 population. The rate of suicide in the WHO European Region is even higher, reaching 13 per 100 000 for both sexes combined, and in excess of 20 suicides among males. In the most affected countries of the Region (e.g. Kazakhstan, Lithuania and the Russian Federation), the rate among males exceeds 40 per 100 000.

WHO is working with Member States and other partners to better respond to this public health challenge by supporting the development and implementation of suicide prevention strategic plans. According to the WHO Mental Health Atlas 2017, just over half of the European Region’s Member States now have an articulated suicide prevention strategy – an increase of more than 50% since 2014.

To further assist local implementation efforts, WHO has published a community engagement toolkit for suicide prevention, which provides a step-by-step guide for communities to engage in suicide prevention activities. Communities are key to an appropriate collective response to the challenges and consequences of deliberate self-harm, due to the many social determinants of such behaviours. There is a need to bring together actors throughout communities, including those from civil society and from multiple government sectors, such as health care, social services, employment and education.