One of the great tragedies of modern life is the increasing numbers of people who feel life is not worth living. It is a difficult subject that gets relatively little coverage and yet when you look at the statistics it is quite staggering how widespread an issue it is in our increasingly complex and challenging world.
According to Dr Catherine Le Gals- Camus, a former WHO Assistant -Director General, Non-communicable Diseases and Mental Health, "Suicide is a largely preventable public health problem, causing almost half of all violent deaths as well as economic costs in the billions of dollars. World-wide, more people die from suicide than from all homicides and wars combined. There is an urgent need for co-ordinated and intensified global action to prevent this needless toll. For every suicide death there are scores of family and friends whose lives are devastated emotionally, socially and economically."
I find the quote that more people die from suicide than all homicides and wars combined staggering and will need to verify its accuracy, even though it appears to come from a reputable source. The World Health Organisation quotes worldwide approximately 1 million people die by suicide every year and that this is set to rise to 1.5 million by 2020. Even so there can be no doubt of the tragic consequences of such a final act. (See Rick Warren and The Secret Anguish of Major Depressive Disorder).
Suicide rates tend to increase with age, but there has recently been an alarming increase in suicidal behaviours amongst young people aged 15 to 25 years old, worldwide. With the exception of rural China, more men than women commit suicide, although in most places more women than men attempt suicide.
Suicide is now the leading cause of death for men aged 15-49. Men are three times more likely than women to take their own lives. They accounted for four out of five suicides in 2015.
Key factors associated with suicide in men include:...
Depression (especially when it is untreated or undiagnosed). According to the psychologist Martin Seligman people born since 1945 are 10 times more likely to suffer from depression than those born before.
Alcohol or drug misuse
Family and relationship problems (including marital breakup and divorce).
The National Confidential Inquiry into suicide by children and young people stated; “Suicide is the second leading cause of death among 15-29 year olds worldwide accounting for 8% of all deaths In the UK. Suicide is the leading cause of death in young people, accounting for 14% of deaths in 10-19 year olds and 21% of deaths in 20-34 year olds."
Further statistics from the UK show that in 2016 there were 5688 suicides in the UK in 2016. This means on average around 16 people end their own lives every day. That is around 16 people ending their lives every day or one person every two hours.
Here is how the author Simon Sinek (who interestingly describes himself as an unshakeable optimist and whose TED talk Start with Why is the second most popular TED talk of all time) puts it in his book "Leaders Eat Last". He is talking about my generation known as the 'baby boomers' (born approximately between 1946-1964) :
"Disappointed and disillusioned, baby boomers are killing themselves in greater numbers than ever before. According to a 2013 study by the Centres for Disease Control, suicide rates among Baby Boomers rose nearly 30% during the last decade, making suicide one of the leading causes of death in that age group, behind only cancer and heart disease. The biggest jump in suicides was among men in their fifties - this age group experienced a whopping 50% increase. With the increase of suicides among Boomers, more people die of suicide than from car accidents.
Unless we do something, my fear is that it is going to get worse. The problem is that in 20 to 30 years when our youngest generation grows up and takes charge of government and business, its members will have grown up using Facebook, prescription drugs or online support groups as their primary coping mechanisms rather than relying on real support groups: biological bonds of friendship and loving relationships. I predict we will see a rise in depression, prescription drug abuse, suicide and other anti-social behaviours."
We are going to explore this further in future blog posts, but for now what questions do you have about suicide, its prevention and helping those for who life does not feel worth living?
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