Why are we not getting any closer to preventing suicide?
In humanistic domains such as ethics, philosophy and anthropology the debate on the legitimacy of preventing suicide seems to have proceeded in parallel with the history of human development (Minois, 1999). Even in the medical world, where suicide has been acknowledged as a primary public health problem within the past century, and where the World Health Organization declared the fight against suicide as a priority for the first time in the year 2000, there is disagreement about the effectiveness of preventive efforts (Wilkinson, 1994). There are many reasons for such scepticism, all of them more or less centred on the extreme complexity of the suicide phenomenon and its relative rarity. A recent World Health Report (World Health Organization, 2001) calculated the number of recorded suicide deaths to be 815 000 worldwide (0.0135% of the global population), a burden slightly lower than the estimate of 1 million published in an earlier technical report dedicated to suicide (World Health Organization, 1999).
British Journal of Psychiatry