India recorded the highest number of suicides in Southeast Asia in 2012, says a report released by the World Health Organisation (WHO) in Geneva on Thursday. The number of victims was 2,58,075 — 1,58,098 men and 99,977 women — that year. Globally, the number was 8,04,000.
The report says a suicide takes place every 40 seconds in the world, and calls for coordinated action against it worldwide. Data collated over a decade show most suicides in the world occur in Southeast Asia, 39 per cent of those in low- and middle-income countries in the region. Suicide by pesticide ingestion is among the most common methods employed globally and is of particular concern in rural areas in Southeast Asia.
Suicide is the second leading cause of death in the 15-29 age group. There are indications that for each adult who die of suicide, more than 20 attempt it, the report says. Pesticide consumption, hanging and use of firearms are among the most common methods of suicide globally. Based on evidence from Australia, Canada, Japan, New Zealand, the United States and a number of European countries, limiting access to these means can help prevent deaths.
The report says that in richer countries, three times as many men die by suicide than women; men aged 50 and above are a particularly vulnerable group. In low-and middle-income countries, young adults and elderly women have higher rates of suicide than their counterparts in high-income countries. Women aged over 70 are more than twice likely to commit suicide than women in the 15-29 age group.
The report underlines that suicides are “preventable” and advocates establishment and implementation of a coordinated plan of action by governments. “Currently, only 28 countries are known to have national suicide prevention strategies,” it says.
Assessment and management of mental disorders, restricting access to the means of suicide, developing policies to reduce the harmful use of alcohol through a range of policy options, and encouraging the media to follow responsible reporting practices on suicide have been listed as steps to check suicide.
“This report is a call for action to address a large public health problem,” said Margaret Chan, Director-General of WHO, in a statement. The report comes just a week before World Suicide Prevention Day, September 10.