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World Suicide Prevention Day: How the media can help prevent suicide

WHO statistics further reveal that each year, an estimated 800,000 people die around the world, due to suicide

September 10 is globally recognised as World Suicide Prevention Day. This day was introduced by the International Association for Suicide Prevention (IASP) alongside the World Health Organisation (WHO).

The day is intended to raise awareness, and in so doing, support advocacy for suicide prevention. By dedicating an entire day to suicide prevention, the IASP and WHO aim to change the narrative around mental health, counter misconceptions and address poor understanding surrounding this highly stigmatised condition.

Mental health is a global issue of concern and constitutes a key public health challenge for most countries in the developing and developed world. Statistics say that one in four people will develop a mental health condition in their lifetime.

WHO statistics further reveal that each year, an estimated 800,000 people die around the world, due to suicide. To put this into perspective, one person dies from suicide every 40 seconds.

Low and middle-income countries are also said to have a higher rate of suicide, with a significant 79% of global suicides occurring in these countries.

Nigeria is a lower-middle-income country where cases of suicide are increasingly being reported in the media. With an estimated population of 200 million people as at 2020, leaving aside babies and under-5s, approximately 45 million Nigerians can be said to be at risk of mental illness with hundreds of thousands at risk of suicide.

Increasing concern about the mental health of Nigerians and the role of the media in reporting recent cases of suicides constituted the impetus for an online conference organised by the World Health Organisation Collaborating Centre of Excellence in Mental Health Neuroscience and Substance Use Disorders, University of Ibadan. the UCH/College of Medicine Department of Psychiatry, the Asido Foundation, and Stablemums Foundation on September 8, 2020.

Oye Gureje, the director of the WHO Collaborating Centre of Excellence in mental health neuroscience and substance use disorders, who opened the training, noted that while there is a paucity of data on suicide rates in Nigeria, most recent data indicate an incidence of 17.3 suicides per 100,000 people.

He went on to note that there seems to be an increase in reporting in the media on suicide. The question of whether increased reporting was a reflection of a rise in suicide rates or a rise in public interest was discussed and the implications of responsible reporting explored.

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