|Towards a Suicide Free Society: Identify Suicide Prevention as Public Health Policy
Ajai R Singh, Shakuntala A Singh
July-August 2003, 1(2):3-16
Suicide is amongst the top ten causes of death for all age groups in most countries of the world. It is the second most important cause of death in the younger age group (15-19 yrs.) , second only to vehicular accidents. Attempted suicides are ten times the successful suicide figures, and 1-2% attempted suicides become successful suicides every year. Male sex, widowhood, single or divorced marital status, addiction to alcohol ordrugs, concomitant chronic physical or mental illness, past suicidal attempt, adverse life events, staying in lodging homes or staying alone, or in areas with a changing population, all these conditions predispose people to suicides. The key factor probably is social isolation. An important WHO Study established that out of a total of 6003 suicides, 98% had a psychiatric disorder. Hence mental health professionals have an important role to play in the prevention and management of suicide. Moreover, social disintegration also increases suicides, as was witnessed in the Baltic States following collapse of the Soviet Union. Hence, reducing social isolation, preventing social disintegration and treating mental disorders is the three pronged attack that must be the crux of any public health programme to reduce/prevent suicide. This requires an integrated effort on the part of mental health professionals (including crisis intervention and medication/psychotherapy), governmental measures to tackle poverty and unemployment, and social attempts to reorient value systems and prevent sudden disintegration of norms and mores. Suicide prevention and control is thus a movement which involves the state, professionals, NGOs, volunteers and an enlightened public. Further, the Global Burden of Diseases Study has projected a rise of more than 50% in mental disorders by the year 2020 (from 9.7% in 1990to 15% in 2020). And one third of this rise will be due to Major Depression. One of the prominent causes of preventable mortality is suicidal attempts made by patients of Major Depression. Therefore facilities to tackle this condition need to be set up globally on a warfooting by governments, NGOs and health care delivery systems, if morbidity and mortality of the world population has to be seriously controlled . The need, first of all, is to identify suicide prevention as public health policy, just as we think in terms of Malaria or Polio eradication, or have achieved smallpox eradication.
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