International Experts Focus on Suicide Prevention
> 9/11/2006 11:32:25 AM

September 10 marked the third annual World Suicide Prevention Day, and international experts used the day to weigh in on the causes and destructive effects of this worldwide affliction. Far from a fringe element occurring most often among the mentally unstable, suicide continues to warrant increasing public concern. Between twenty and sixty million people attempt suicide every year, and nearly one million succeed, including approximately thirty thousand in the United States alone. The number of people who die by suicide each year trumps the total casualties of war and murder combined, making it one of the most prominent causes of preventable death and one of the three top causes of death among those aged 15-45. Though suicide is traditionally most common among elderly men, the last fifty years have seen dramatic shifts in suicide statistics, with overall cases increasing by nearly fifty percent and particularly large gains reported among men below the age of 45. Suicide is four times as common among males, but instances of female suicide also saw a steady increase over the past fifty years.

Experts disagree on both the most effective methods for suicide prevention and the  circumstances which most often lead individuals to consider suicide. Most believe that mental health problems and financial difficulties like unemployment, low income and overwhelming debt increase the likelihood of suicidal desires or actions, and statistics imply that such speculation is grounded in reality. In keeping with popular opinion, suicide also occurs more often in urban settings. Access to firearms also contributes to rates of successful suicide, but other widely accepted truths are actually myth, such as the belief that more people commit suicide in winter months or northern European countries. Marriage and religious conviction often provide at least temporary deterrents. Personal attention from family, friends, and mental health professionals is the most widely accepted method for dissuading potential suicides. Certain cultures maintain legal and social conventions that punish or ostracize those who attempt suicide as well as their families. Citizens of such cultures are usually reluctant to seek help for fear of rejection by peers or intervention by legal authorities.

As we learn more about the act itself and the circumstances that bring it about, professionals and average citizens have become more aware and sensitive to those effected by it. In order to further combat the growing tide of suicide in our country and across the world, we need to expand the venues available for those who consider killing themselves, offering understanding and assistance to both prevent suicide in those whose thoughts turn to it and aid in the slow, painful healing process of those whose lives have been changed by suicide.

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