Suicide a cause for concern in the Americas

Dr. Jarbas Barbosa, PAHO director.
Dr. Jarbas Barbosa, PAHO director.
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Nearly 100,000 deaths by suicide happens in the Americas each year and this is of significant concern for the region, this according to the Director of the Pan American Health Organization, (PAHO) Dr. Jarbas Bardosa. Dr. Bardosa made this comment in his message to mark “World Suicide Prevention Day,” marked for Sunday, Sept. 16, 2023.

In his message, Dr. Jarbas Barbosa said that the region has witnessed a 17 percent increase, making it the only area according to the World Health Organization witnessing an increase in suicide. Dr. Bardosa said that the COVID-19 pandemic further exacerbated many risk factors for suicide, such as unemployment, financial insecurity, and social isolation.

This week, he said to help mark the “World Suicide Day,” the Pan American Health Organization organized an online seminar to promote responsible reporting of suicide in media and through social networks, another of the main evidence-based strategies that can help prevent suicide. The PAHO Director said the strategy will “highlight suicide prevention as a priority for all countries and areas of government and also emphasize the need for multisectoral commitment” to prevent the increase.

In explaining further, Dr. Barbosa said addressing suicide include restricting access to the means of self-harm for a person at risk of suicide, developing social and emotional life skills in adolescents, having accessible and integrated mental health services and professional at the first level of care, and eliminating stigma about mental health, one of the main barriers to help-seeking, PAHO Director said.

Dr. Barbosa stressed that “every case of suicide is a tragedy that severely impacts not only individuals, but also families and communities. He said that suicide can be prevented and asked the Caribbean countries to “create hope through our actions and to reduce suicide in the region.”  He further added, “We will continue to support the education and training of healthcare workers and the strengthening of national surveillance systems to inform the development of locally adapted suicide prevention strategies,” he emphasized.

The World Health Organization (WHO) is also updating its guide on preventing suicide:  A resource for media professionals, with recommendations on the do’s and don’ts of suicide reporting he noted.

The PAHO said “World Suicide Prevention Day was established by the International Association for Suicide Prevention in conjunction with the World Health Organization to focus attention on the issue, reduce the sigma associated with it, and raise awareness that suicide is preventable.

This year’s theme, “Creating Hope through Action,” is a call to action and a reminder that there is an alternative to suicide and that through actions hope can be encouraged and prevention strengthened.