Tackling a Global Suicide Stigma

World Suicide Prevention Day on September 10 aims to reduce stigmas preventing treatment

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD Beth Bolt, RPh

(RxWiki News) Suicide is not a simple issue. Not only is it devastating for those directly involved, but often our societies aren't set up to effectively manage the issue and help prevent it in the future.

With this in mind, the International Association for Suicide Prevention (IASP) is recognizing World Suicide Day on September 10.

The theme for this year's observance is "Stigma: A Major Barrier for Suicide Prevention," and organizers are calling for more openness, accessibility and funding for both suicide prevention and mental health in general.

"Seek professional help if you are concerned about a suicide risk."

According to IASP, nearly one million people across the globe die due to suicide each year. This number amounts to about one suicide death every 40 seconds. 

"The number of lives lost each year through suicide exceeds the number of deaths due to homicide and war combined," reported IASP.

In an interview with dailyRx News, Cliff Hamrick, LPC, of Havamal Therapy in Austin, Texas, explained that thoughts of suicide are a very common occurrence. 

"Many of my clients with depression report suicidal ideation," said Hamrick. "But rather than having a specific plan or even the desire to commit suicide, they just have vague thoughts like 'Maybe I would be better off dead', 'Maybe people would be better off if I were gone', or 'No one will miss me.'

"These statements tell me that this is a person who does not want to die, but they don't want to continue their lives in the same way. Talking to a mental health professional can give these people other options for life and a hope for the future. Then the thoughts of suicide disappear," Hamrick told dailyRx News. 

But around the globe, many people who perish from suicide do not reach out for mental health assistance near the time of their death, sometimes due to a lack of available services, explained IASP. This lack of resources often stems from or is made worse by stigma or disgrace associated with suicide, or mental illness in general, that is present in many cultures around the world.

According to IASP, "One of the causes of stigma is a simple lack of knowledge — that is, ignorance. This type of stigma can be directly addressed by providing a range of community-based educational programs that are targeted to specific subgroups within the society (that is, by age, educational level, religious affiliation, and so forth)."

IASP noted that other causes of stigma include discrimination or unfair restrictions against those with mental illness, discomfort with the topic of suicide, even in the case of health professionals, and prejudice or negative attitudes towards those coping with a mental illness. 

Despite stigma, mental illness is not an uncommon occurrence. IASP estimates that in the next 20 years, mental illnesses will make up 25 percent of the total disease burden in the world, surpassing cancer and heart disease.

"In both high-income and low- and middle-income countries, stigmatized conditions such as mental illnesses and suicidal behavior receive a much smaller proportion of health and welfare budgets than is appropriate, given their huge impact on the overall health of the community," noted IASP. 

"Unless stigma is confronted and challenged, it will continue to be a major barrier to the treatment of mental illnesses and to the prevention of suicide," the association stressed.

Review Date: 
September 5, 2013
Last Updated:
January 2, 2014