Lithuania, Kazakhstan, Belarus, Poland and Latvia: these are the five European nations with the highest number of suicides, with all more than 21 suicides per 100,000 people.
That’s according to a comprehensive report by the World Health Organization (WHO), on the general health of the world’s population, and on common causes of death.
The WHO World Health Statistics 2017 report found that:
“Men are almost twice as likely as women to die as a result of suicide. Suicide mortality rates are highest in the WHO European Region (14.1 per 100,000 population) and lowest in the WHO Eastern Mediterranean Region (3.8 per 100,000 population).”
In 2015, suicide was the second leading cause of death by injury after road traffic injuries. Serious depression is suggested as a significant factor in people being pushed to take their own lives, which the WHO estimates affects 311 million people worldwide.
The global health organization is calling for national governments to reduce access to pesticides and other poisons to help reduce the availability of cheap suicide methods.
“A leading means of suicide in many parts of the world is self-poisoning with pesticides.”
The impact of access to pesticides on suicide rates was first identified in a 1995 study that demonstrated both an increase in suicide mortality following the introduction of paraquat (a highly toxic herbicide) in Samoa in 1972, and a subsequent reduction in such mortality after its banning in 1981.”
The WHO report highlighted South Korea’s suicide rate falling due to a pesticide ban in 2011.
Marie-Paule Kieny, the WHO’s assistant director-general for health systems and innovation, said in a statement:
“If countries don’t know what makes people get sick and die, it’s a lot harder to know what to do about it.”
“The WHO is working with countries to strengthen health information systems and improve data quality,” she added.
Health researchers also point to the importance of supporting mental health initiatives, to reduce stigma and offer more mental health support.
Globally, the three nations with the highest suicide rates are Sri Lanka (35.3 suicides per 100,000), Lithuania (32.7 suicides per 100,000), and Guyana (29 suicides per 100,000).
The World Health Statistics 2017 report has been published in May, Mental Health Awareness Month, which has been observed every May since 1949.