WHO releases its first global report on suicide

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The World Health Organization has released its first global report on suicide prevention, just in time for World Suicide Prevention Day. This extensive report presents global statistics on suicide, examines prevention efforts, and makes recommendations for prevention.

First, WHO took a look at the number of suicides around the world for the year 2012. The results are sobering: 804,000 people are reported to have lost their lives to suicide in 2012.

But this number is only a part of the picture. Suicide is highly stigmatized around the world and even illegal in some countries, so the actual number of deaths due to suicide is likely much, much higher. Plus, in addition to completed suicides each year, WHO reminds us that every person who dies of suicide, at least 20 more have made a suicide attempt and survived.

In Canada, WHO found that 3,983 suicides were reported in 2012. The good news: this was an 11% reduction since 2000. The bad news: it’s still 3,983 too many. Each suicide leaves pain in its wake, as those who knew the deceased struggle to make sense of a tragic loss. Many may wonder if they could have done more, if they could have prevented the death. When a family loses a father, a son, a mother, or a brother, an uncle, or a cousin to suicide, that family is forever changed.

Risk Factors

WHO found a number of factors that raise the risk of suicide in countries around the world.

A number of factors contribute to suicide on a societal level. For example, a lack of accessible mental healthcare services can increase the risk of suicide. Another major hurdle: the public stigma that prevents people from getting the help they need. Sensationalist reporting of suicide in the media can also play a role, as media reports both reflect the social stigma and contribute to maintaining it.

Of course, suicide is also directly affected by so many aspects of the everyday life of the people who are suffering. Social isolation, a lack of social support, a sense of hopelessness, alcohol abuse, a lack of coping skills, and trauma are just a few factors that can raise the risk of suicide.

Another universal risk factor for suicide: being male. Men are far more likely to commit suicide than women all around the world. In Canada, men accounted for 76% of the completed suicides in 2012. This may be in part because men are less likely than women to reach out for help and talk about their feelings, leaving them alone with their thoughts of suicide. This reminds us of the importance of thinking outside the box to develop different kinds of support and services directly targeting men, to get them talking before it’s too late.


Suicide can be prevented, and WHO is calling on all of us to help make that happen. To prevent suicide on a global level, we need to think big. Suicide prevention needs to focus on all of the risk factors, from the individual’s everyday experience to public policy at the national level.

Within the tapestry of services and activities that can help prevent suicide, WHO’s global report recognizes the role of the community.


“Communities play a critical role in suicide prevention. They can provide social support to vulnerable individuals and engage in follow-up care, fight stigma and support those bereaved by suicide.” (p. 76).


This is where MDAO comes into the picture. MDAO is a community organization that aims to provide social support to individuals living with mood and anxiety disorders. Supporting those who are vulnerable and fighting stigma are at the very heart of our mission. Every day, we strive to do our part in the shared global effort to reach those who are in need of help by lending a listening ear, providing resources and tools, and promoting positive mental health and wellbeing.

For more information the First WHO World Suicide Report, see the WHO website and its YouTube Video.

For more information on MDAO’s services, see our website or call our telephone support and referral warmline at 1-866-363-MOOD (6663).

If you or someone you know is contemplating suicide, see the crisis resources offered by the Ontario Association for Suicide Prevention.