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WHO: Death by Suicide Occurs every 40 Seconds

Update Date: Sep 04, 2014 11:19 AM EDT

According to a new report by the Untied Nations health agency, the World Health Organization (WHO), death by suicide occurs every 40 seconds throughout the world. The WHO called suicide a "major public health problem" that needs to be addressed.

"This report is a call for action to address a large public health problem, which has been shrouded in taboo for far too long," Dr. Margaret Chan, the director general of the WHO, said.

The agency reviewed 10 years of data regarding suicide trends from all across the world. The team calculated that about 800,000 people choose to kill themselves each year. Around 75 percent of those cases occur in low and middle-income nations. In wealthier nations, men were three times more likely to kill themselves than women were.

For people in the age group of 15 to 29, suicide is the second leading cause of death. However, people over the age of 70 were the most likely to commit suicide. Ways to prevent suicide include limiting access to firearms and incorporating a nationwide strategy. The agency added that tackling the social stigma surrounding mental illness could reduce suicide rates as well. Many people suffering from depression and suicidal ideation do not seek help due to these stigmas. By educating people and increasing awareness, more people would ideally get help.

"I think there needs to be much more public awareness around suicide and how to approach people that may be experiencing suicidal thoughts and feelings, too few of us know how to react when they see someone who may be at risk of taking their life or experiencing those thoughts and feelings," Jonny Benjamin, a suicide campaigner in the UK, said to BBC News. "I think there needs to be much more public awareness, much more education in schools as well because, as statistics today have shown young people are especially at risk of taking their own lives."

The WHO reported that only 28 countries have a national suicide prevention method. Even these prevention programs are not the best. The WHO stressed that in order for suicide rates to fall, countries and campaigners need to do a better job at educating people about suicide. The agency's goal is to reduce the number of suicide cases by 10 percent by 2020.

WHO's report, "Preventing suicide: A global imperative," can be accessed here.

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