Global Suicide Mortality Rates – A Light at the End of the Tunnel?
n 1999, as part of the efforts to raise awareness about the magnitude and importance of suicide mortality, the World Health Organization (WHO) posted two graphs on its website. One showed the evolution of the global suicide mortality, 1950-1995, according to sex, and the other showed a projection about how those rates could evolve should no effective action be taken (Figure 1). Those two graphs became a constant reference in presentations and conferences around the world as well as a frequent quote in papers and books (Wasserman & Wasserman, 2009). They were also instrumental in leading the WHO's high management to adopt suicide prevention as one of its priorities, which in turn led to the establishment of SUPRE, the WHO Suicide Prevention Program (Fleischmann et al., 2008). Now, more than a decade after those graphs were popularized, it may be of interest to have another look at the evolution of suicide mortality and try to hypothesize factors behind possible changes. In doing so, we followed exactly the same methodology used by the WHO in the original calculations. A global reduction in suicide mortality rates seems apparent for the last 20 years. With the exception of the very young females, the reductions observed are consistent across sex and age group. Although these findings are exciting, we should not forget that, when we consider natural population growth, the reduction of the absolute number of deaths from suicide might not be as impressive as that of rates. This calls for renewed efforts to further reduce suicide mortality, particularly in the age groups where results have been less marked (the youngest) and in age groups whose population is increasing (middle-aged and older).
Crisis: The Journal of Crisis Intervention and Suicide Prevention
Psychiatry (incl. Psychotherapy)