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Psychologists welcome initiatives of World Suicide Prevention Day September 10

10 Sep 2016

Dr Tony Wainwright, EFPA Board Prevention and Intervention stated: ‘Over the past year across Europe we have seen a very substantial increase in the numbers of people who are at risk of suicide; those fleeing from disaster, conflict and poverty.

EFPA, the European Federation of Psychologists’ Associations, welcomes the many initiatives that form part of the World Suicide Prevention Day (WSPD) on Saturday September 10, 2016 (see http://tinyurl.com/jtj8abb for toolkit).

The theme this year is connect, communicate and care and we encourage all psychology associations in Europe to consider the role that these different elements can play in combating suicide. The EFPA supports the initiative of the International Association for Suicide Prevention (IASP) and the World Health Organization (WHO) and agrees that the existing efforts need to be promoted and extended.

The World Health Organisation estimates that every year, over 800,000 people die from suicide; this roughly corresponds to one death every 40 seconds. The number of lives lost each year due to suicide exceeds the number of deaths due to homicide and war combined and is the 15th leading cause of death globally, accounting for 1.4% of all deaths in 2012 and is highest among older people. However, among young people aged 15-29 it was the second leading cause of death in 2012. There are also great differences between the countries: suicide rates are lower in southern European countries and highest in the Baltic States and Central Europe. Moreover each and every suicide entails a high price in terms of suffering and pain of those who think of ending their lives and their relatives and close friends.

Suicide is complex with psychological, social, biological, cultural and environmental factors involved and while the strongest risk factor for suicide is a previous suicide attempt, mental disorders (particularly depression and alcohol use disorders) are a major risk factor for suicide in Europe.

In addition, experiencing conflict, disaster, violence, abuse, bereavement or loss and isolation are strongly associated with suicidal behaviour and suicide rates are elevated amongst vulnerable groups who experience discrimination, such as refugees and migrants; indigenous peoples; lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex (LGBTI) persons; and prisoners. 

EFPA urges member associations to speak up about and find ways to encourage support for people on the move from conflict and poverty, whose numbers have grown so much over the past years few years (http://tinyurl.com/gsuldo7 ). 

Nevertheless, suicide is preventable and positive trends were seen over the last decades. The theme of the 2016 WSPD, Connect, Communicate and Care encourages us all to consider the role that offering support may play in combating suicide. Initiatives like Cycle Around the Globe, now in its fourth year, are good fun and good exercise, and are a great way to bring people together to reduce the stigma of suicide (http://tinyurl.com/opqt9kc )

How psychological approaches can help

Psychologists as a professional group are often the ones developing and implementing public-health interventions, such as preparing national suicide prevention plans, educating the media about their role in suicide prevention; are engaged in recognizing people in need, such as in screening and assessment in different situations; carrying out research; providing psychological interventions to help people in distress or prevent higher risks and supporting others in developing their psychological skills in this area. 

An example of this is work being done by a team in Slovenia, including a member of the EFPA Board of Prevention and Intervention, Vita Postuvan, on the implementation of media guidelines and assessing their effectiveness (see http://tinyurl.com/z54ytku for the recent paper).  This highlights how careful use of evidence needs to link to policy so that we ensure that what is implemented has the greatest chance of success. 

EFPA maintains that psychologists have an important leadership role with both local and national governments and they need to be sufficiently resourced to carry out their work.

Dr Tony Wainwright, EFPA Board Prevention and Intervention stated: ‘Over the past year across Europe we have seen a very substantial increase in the numbers of people who are at risk of suicide; those fleeing from disaster, conflict and poverty. We need to redouble our efforts to connect, communicate and care for each other during these difficult times and combat the forces that lead to discrimination and stigma.’

Contacts:

Tony Wainwright – EFPA Board of Prevention and Intervention http://preventionintervention.efpa.eu/introduction/ - t.w.wainwright(at)exeter.ac.uk

Dr Vita Postuvan, Slovenian Psychological Association vita.dps(at)gmail.com

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