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What can be done to prevent suicide

In response to this serious public health problem, many countries have made substantial efforts to prevent suicide. what can be done to prevent suicide? WHO has produced an updated inventory of national strategies for suicide prevention in WHO’s European Member States. Suicide rates can be reduced if depression and anxiety are treated. Studies have confirmed the beneficial effects of antidepressants and psychotherapy. At a WHO meeting on suicide prevention strategies inEurope, held in 2004, health policy-makers and experts in mental health and suicide behaviour from 36 Member States in the European Region discussed current evidence on and practices in suicide prevention and formulated recommendations for suicide prevention strategies.

The conclusions of the meeting can be summarized as follows.

Suicide and attempted suicide present serious public health problems. In some countries, more people commit suicide than are killed in traffi c accidents.

Age and gender are important aspects of suicide risk and trends, and need to be considered in the development of suicide prevention programmes.

Media reporting that glamorizes suicide adversely infl uences public attitudes and may contribute to an increase in suicidal behaviour. The main recommendations were the following.

The prevention of suicide and attempted suicide requires a public health approach. The burden of suicide is so large that this should be a responsibility for the entire government, under the leadership of the ministry of health.

Suicide prevention programmes are needed. They should consider specifi c interventions for different groups at risk (for example, age- and gender-related), including tasks allocated to different sectors (education, labour market, social affairs, etc.), and they should be evaluated.

Health care professionals, especially in emergency services, should be trained to identify suicide risk and proactively collaborate with mental health services.

Education of both health professionals and the general public should start as early as possible and focus on both risk and protective factors.

Policy-oriented research on and evaluation of suicide prevention programmes are needed.

The mass media should be involved and trained in suicide prevention and the WHO code of conduct on media behaviour in relation to suicidality should be promoted.

The Mental Health Action Plan Europe proposes a number of specific measures, including:

 measuring base rates of stress indicators and identifying groups at risk;

 targeting marginalized groups with education, information and support programmes;

establishing self-help groups, telephone help lines and web sites for people in crisis.

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