What can we learn from the countries with the highest and lowest suicide rates?

Editor’s note: This piece discusses suicide. If you have experienced suicidal thoughts or have lost someone to suicide and want to seek help, you can contact the Crisis Text Line by texting “START” to 741-741 or call the Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-8255.

Suicide is a global phenomenon that affects people of all countries, cultures, religions, genders, and statuses. The recent deaths of prominent global figures Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain has prompted talk around the world about suicide, the reasons behind it, and the best approaches to prevention. Studying the characteristics and differences in suicide rates across various countries can yield meaningful insights for interventions and other preventive action.

Across the world, close to 800,000 people die from suicide each year, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). However, in much of the world, because suicide is condemned for religious or cultural reasons, it is often an act of secrecy surrounded by taboo, and may be unrecognized, misclassified or deliberately hidden in official death records.

Europe has the highest suicide rates in the world. Among the top five countries for suicide are Guyana, Lesotho, Russia, Lithuania, and Suriname. The National Suicide Prevention Plan issued by the Ministry of Health, recognized poverty, pervasive stigma about mental illness, access to lethal chemicals, social violence, alcohol misuse, family dysfunction, and insufficient mental health resources as key factors to the suicide epidemic in Guyana.

Just because some countries put emphasis in measuring national happiness doesn’t mean they have low suicide rates. For example, the country of Bhutan has a high suicide rate, but is well known for measuring happiness and wellbeing of its population. Interestingly, it may surprise people that most of the troubling nations in the world, such as Afghanistan, Iraq, and Syria, have comparatively low suicide rates. (Some of these numbers may be deflated due to underreporting).

Although the country with the highest suicide rate, Guyana, is located in the Caribbean, the Caribbean region has the lowest suicide rate in the world. Barbados, Antigua and Barbuda, Bahamas, Grenada, and Jamaica are the countries with the lowest suicide rates.

The WHO aims to encourage and support countries to develop and strengthen suicide prevention strategies in a multisectoral public health approach. WHO released a suicide prevention community engagement toolkit, which is a step-by-step guide for people to initiate suicide prevention activities in their community. It includes advice and practical tools to help with goal setting, stakeholder mapping and action plan development. It also includes details of successful initiatives in Canada, India, Kenya, Nepal, Trinidad and Tobago and the USA.As suicide cleanup professionals, we are familiar with the devastation and pain suicide can leave behind. By being aware of the risk factors and suicide prevention resources available, you can help save someone’s life.

As suicide cleanup professionals, we are familiar with the devastation and pain suicide can leave behind. By being aware of the risk factors and suicide prevention resources available, you can help save someone’s life.

  1. https://www.who.int/mental_health/prevention/suicide/suicideprevent/en/
  2. http://worldpopulationreview.com/countries/suicide-rate-by-country/