1 person dies by suicide every 40 seconds, WHO says — Here’s how to help those who are struggling

One person dies by suicide every 40 seconds, according to figures by the World Health Organization.

While there has been an increase in the number of countries with suicide prevention strategies over the last five years to a total of 38, the World Health Organization said Monday that the number is still “far too few” in the lead up to World Suicide Prevention Day.

“Despite progress, one person still dies every 40 seconds from suicide,” said WHO Director-General Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus. “Every death is a tragedy for family, friends and colleagues. Yet suicides are preventable. We call on all countries to incorporate proven suicide prevention strategies into national health and education programmes in a sustainable way.”

Close to 800,000 people die by suicide every year, more deaths than war and homicide combined, WHO said. In young people aged 15 to 29, suicide is the second leading cause of death after road injuries.


A file image shows two people holding hands. (Photo by Miguel Candela/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images)

While 79 percent of the world’s suicides occurred in low- and middle-income countries, researchers said high-income countries had the highest rates, with 11.5 deaths per 100,000 people.

WHO said in a statement that regulations to limit access to hazardous pesticides could be one way to reduce the global suicide rate. In Sri Lanka, a series of bans led to a 70 percent decrease in suicides and an estimated 93,000 lives saved between 1995 and 2015, according to WHO. Additionally in South Korea, a ban on the herbicide paraquat was followed by 50 percent less suicide deaths from pesticide poisoning between 2011 and 2013.

Experts say stigma around mental disorders, lack of awareness of suicide as a major health problem and a taboo in many cultures to openly discussing it means many people contemplating suicide do not get the adequate help they need.

WHO’s announcement was made a day before Tuesday’s World Suicide Prevention Day, which is launched in partnership with the World Federation for Mental Health, the Internal Association for Suicide Prevention and United for Global Mental Health. This year’s “40 seconds of action” campaign aims to raise awareness of suicide around the world and methods of prevention.

According to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, there are warning signs and risk factors which loved ones should look out for if they are concerned about a person — including what they speak about and changes in their behavior and mood.

Conditions like depression, anxiety and substance problems, especially when unaddressed, increase risk for suicide.

RELATED: Suicide risk factors and warning signs

Experts say to have an honest conversation and assume you are the only one who will reach out.

Speaking to a loved one in private, listening to their story, telling them you care, asking directly if they are thinking about suicide and encouraging them to seek treatment are all suggested ways to help someone who may be struggling with their mental health.

RELATED: How to talk to someone who may be struggling with depression or anxiety

If you or a loved one is feeling distressed, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. The crisis center provides free and confidential emotional support 24 hours a day, seven days a week to civilians and veterans. Call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255. Or text 741-741.