Recommends banning of dangerous pesticides

By Chioma Obinna

The World Health Organisation, WHO, weekend said suicide remains one of the leading causes of death worldwide and responsible for 1 in 100 deaths globally.

In its latest estimates entitled: “Suicide worldwide in 2019”, WHO noted that every year, more people die as a result of suicide than HIV, malaria or breast cancer or war and homicide.

The latest estimates noted that in 2019, more than 700 000 people died by suicide: one in every 100 deaths, prompting the WHO to produce new guidance to help countries improve suicide prevention and care.

The WHO guidance is to help the world reach the target of reducing the suicide rate by 1/3 by 2030

Speaking on the new estimates, Director-General of the WHO, Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said the world cannot and must not ignore suicide.

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“Each one is a tragedy. Our attention to suicide prevention is even more important now, after many months of living with the COVID-19 pandemic, with many of the risk factors for suicide   ̶   job loss, financial stress and social isolation still very much present.”

He said the new guidance would provide a clear path for stepping up suicide prevention efforts.

“Among young people aged 15-29, suicide was the fourth leading cause of death after road injury, tuberculosis and interpersonal violence. The rates vary, between countries, regions, and between males and females.”

The report also explained that more than twice as many males die due to suicide as females (12.6 per 100 000 males compared with 5.4 per 100 000 females).

“Suicide rates among men are generally higher in high-income countries (16.5 per 100 000). For females, the highest suicide rates are found in lower-middle-income countries (7.1 per 100 000).

Suicide rates in the WHO African (11.2 per 100 000), European (10.5 per 100 000) and South-East Asia (10.2 per 100 000) regions were higher than the global average (9.0 per 100 000) in 2019. The lowest suicide rate was in the Eastern Mediterranean region (6.4 per 100 000).

Globally, the suicide rate is decreasing; in the Americas, it is going up.  Suicide rates fell in the 20 years between 2000 and 2019, with the global rate decreasing by 36 per cent, with decreases ranging from 17 per cent in the Eastern Mediterranean Region to 47 per cent in the European Region and 49 per cent in the Western Pacific.

“But in the Americas Region, rates increased by 17 per cent in the same time period.  Although some countries have placed suicide prevention high on their agendas, too many countries remain uncommitted. 

“Currently only 38 countries are known to have a national suicide prevention strategy.

“A significant acceleration in the reduction of suicides is needed to meet the SDG target of a one-third reduction in the global suicide rate by 2030.”

However, WHO has released comprehensive guidance for implementing its LIVE LIFE approach to suicide prevention. The four strategies of this approach are:  limiting access to the means of suicide, such as highly hazardous pesticides and firearms; educating the media on responsible reporting of suicide; fostering socio-emotional life skills in adolescents; and early identification, assessment, management and follow-up of anyone affected by suicidal thoughts and behaviour.

WHO further recommended the banning of the most dangerous pesticides given that pesticide poisoning is estimated to cause 20 per cent of all suicides while national bans of acutely toxic, highly hazardous pesticides have shown to be cost-effective.

Other measures recommended by WHO include restricting access to firearms, reducing the size of medication packages and installing barriers at jump sites.

On responsible reporting by the media, the guide highlighted the role the media plays in relation to suicide.

“Media reports of suicide can lead to a rise in suicide due to imitation (or copycat suicides) – especially if the report is about a celebrity or describes the method of suicide.

“The new guide advises monitoring of the reporting of suicide and suggests that media counteract reports of suicide with stories of successful recovery from mental health challenges or suicidal thoughts. It also recommends working with social media companies to increase their awareness and improve their protocols for identifying and removing harmful content.”

WHO also noted that support for adolescence (10-19 years of age) was a critical period for acquiring socio-emotional skills, particularly since half of the mental health conditions appear before 14 years of age.

“The LIVE LIFE guidance encourages actions including mental health promotion and anti-bullying programmes, links to support services and clear protocols for people working in schools and universities when a suicide risk is identified.

“Early identification, assessment, management and follow-up apply to people who have attempted suicide or are perceived to be at risk. A previous suicide attempt is one of the most important risk factors for future suicide.

“Health-care workers should be trained in early identification, assessment, management and follow-up.

“Survivors’ groups of people bereaved by suicide can complement the support provided by health services. Crisis services should also be available to provide immediate support to individuals in acute distress.

The new guidance, which includes examples of suicide prevention interventions that have been implemented across the world, in countries such as Australia, Ghana, Guyana, India, Iraq, the Republic of Korea, Sweden and the USA can be used by anyone who is interested in implementing suicide prevention activities, whether at the national or local level and in the governmental and non-governmental sectors alike.

On his part, Suicide prevention expert at the World Health Organisation, Alexandra Fleischmann said: “While a comprehensive national suicide prevention strategy should be the ultimate goal for all governments,” said Dr, “starting suicide prevention with LIVE LIFE interventions can save lives and prevent the heartbreak that follows for those left behind.”

Vanguard News Nigeria

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