The past years have seen such a surge in suicides in many countries that the International Association for Suicide Prevention, organized in 1960, now has professionals and volunteers from over 50 countries. With support from the World Health Organization, IASP has been marking Sept. 10 as World Suicide Prevention Day to focus on the problem.
The IASP reports that suicide has become one of the top 20 causes of death globally for all ages, responsible for about 800,000 deaths every year. That’s approximately one suicide every 40 seconds, with each suicide estimated by the IASP to have a profound impact on about 135 people, or about 108 million people a year. Each suicide also influences an average of 25 people to take their own life, the IASP reports.
The problem has now been aggravated by the public health crisis spawned by the coronavirus disease 2019 pandemic. Lockdowns to prevent the COVID contagion have been catastrophic to economies, paralyzing industries, destroying livelihoods and rendering millions of people jobless or underemployed.
In the Philippines, mental health workers have noted an increase in calls to suicide prevention hotlines since the start of the COVID quarantines. The increase has been attributed to depression over the inability to earn a living and provide for one’s family, compounded in certain cases by prolonged separation from loved ones due to pandemic travel restrictions.
Even before the pandemic, however, mental health workers in the country were already expressing concern over the increase in depression and suicides especially among the youth. Amid the pandemic, concerns have been raised that depression or thoughts of suicide might develop among youths cooped up at home or unable, because of financial constraints, to continue their formal education under the blended learning mode.
Those involved in preventing suicide emphasize that with early detection, compassion and other forms of emotional support, it is possible to discourage people from taking their own life. The effort works best when there is a combination of interventions at the individual, systems and community levels. The IASP emphasizes that suicide prevention is most effective when there is collaboration among family members, friends, co-workers, educators, religious leaders, healthcare providers, politicians and governments.
The Philippines already has a law to promote mental health. What is needed is the full implementation of support measures to deal with depression and reassure distressed individuals that life is still worth living.