WHO Releases Valuable Tools To Promote Suicide Prevention And Decriminalization Efforts

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Suicide Prevention And Decriminalization

In an effort to combat the global scourge of suicide, the World Health Organization (WHO) has introduced two essential resources, that is suicide prevention and decriminalization efforts.

As suicide continues to claim over 700,000 lives annually, WHO’s initiatives seek to address this major public health issue and its devastating consequences on individuals, families, and communities.

Suicide is the fourth leading cause of death among 15–29-year-olds, underscoring the urgent need for intervention. It is a complex problem, intertwined with social, economic, cultural, and psychological factors.

Denial of basic human rights, resource inequities, and various life stressors like employment pressures, relationship breakdowns, and discrimination all contribute to its prevalence.

Reducing the global suicide rate by one-third by 2030 aligns with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and WHO’s Global Mental Health Action Plan.

Achieving this goal necessitates immediate and concerted efforts from nations worldwide.

WHO’s Policy And Efforts For Suicide Prevention And Decriminalization

Dévora Kestel, Director of Mental Health and Substance Use at WHO, emphasized the importance of these new resources: “Each death by suicide is a tragedy, and more must be done to strengthen suicide prevention.

The resources launched by WHO today provide important guidance on two areas which are critical to suicide prevention efforts: decriminalisation of suicide and suicide attempts and responsible reporting of suicide by the media.”

Decriminalizing suicide and suicide attempts represents a significant step towards creating a more compassionate and effective approach to mental health.

Shockingly, at least 23 countries still have laws that criminalize suicide or punish suicide attempts. Such legislation fosters blame towards those who attempt suicide and deters individuals from seeking help due to the fear of legal consequences and social stigma.

To address this issue, WHO’s policy brief on the health aspects of the decriminalization of suicide and suicide attempts draws on the experiences of countries like Guyana, Pakistan, and Singapore, which have recently decriminalized suicide.

The brief offers crucial recommendations for policymakers, legislators, and decision-makers considering reform in this area.

Key recommendations include the development of national suicide prevention strategies, allocation of resources for training first-line responders post-decriminalization, the establishment of rights-oriented community-based mental health services, and the formulation of new mental health laws and policies promoting quality care and the rights of individuals with mental health conditions and psychosocial disabilities.

Nathalie Drew Bold, WHO Technical Officer, emphasized the damaging effects of criminalizing suicide: “Criminalizing suicide only serves to exacerbate people’s distress. The decriminalization of suicide and suicide attempts is a critical step that governments can take in their efforts to prevent suicide. WHO is committed to supporting efforts to decriminalize suicide.”

The second resource launched by WHO, “Preventing Suicide: A Resource for Media Professionals (2023 Update),” addresses the crucial role of media in shaping public perceptions and attitudes towards suicide.

Irresponsible reporting can inadvertently glamorize suicide, contribute to copycat incidents, and perpetuate stigma.

The updated resource provides media professionals with guidelines for responsible reporting on suicide, emphasizing the importance of balanced, compassionate, and evidence-based coverage.

By following these guidelines, media outlets can play a vital role in raising awareness, reducing stigma, and promoting understanding of mental health issues.

Both resources launched by WHO serve as important tools in the global battle against suicide. They highlight the need for a multi-pronged approach that combines decriminalization efforts with responsible media coverage.

As nations strive to meet the 2030 goal of reducing suicide rates, these resources offer invaluable guidance and support in addressing a pressing public health concern.


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