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More women get depressed, but more men die from suicide

By MYLENE MENDOZA-DAYRIT, The Philippine STAR Published Sep 19, 2023 5:00 am

In South Korea, 40 out of 100,000 men take their own life compared to 16.9 women. It has an average of 28.6 suicide rate, the fourth highest globally and the highest in Asia.

In the Philippines, three men out of 100,000 commit suicide versus 1.2 women. Those are lowest in Southeast Asia. 

In Japan, the second highest in Asia, almost 22 men and nine women in 100,000 take their lives. In Thailand, 15 men and almost three women commit suicide. While in China, almost 10 men and six women do it. Almost 700,000 die annually because of suicide. 

In the released records of the World Health Organization published in 2021, South Korea ranked fourth in the top 10 countries where suicide is prevalent. In the same study, the Philippines was the 10th among the countries with the least suicide rates. 

In the event of the World Suicide Prevention Day last Sept. 10, WHO emphasized that while many died due to suicide in a year, the number of attempted suicides is definitely a lot more! It is so prevalent that it is now considered the fourth leading cause of death for those among 15 to 29 years old.

Suicide is the fourth leading cause of death for the 15 to 29 year old segment. In most countries, twice to four times more men die of suicide compared to women.

If you go through the list of more than 100 countries ranked by WHO you would note that in all except three countries, more men are prone to take their lives than their female counterparts. While suicide data reveal that women are roughly three times more likely to attempt suicide, men are two to four times more likely to die by suicide. 

Studies confirm that women show higher rates of suicidal thinking, non-fatal suicidal behavior, and suicide attempts. Depression is the registered cause of at least half of suicides. In this aspect, women are twice as likely to be diagnosed with depression compared to men. Women are also most likely to seek treatment for depression. 

“Suicide is a major public health problem. More than 700,000 people take their own life every year. It is the fourth leading cause of death among 15 to 29-year-olds. Not only is each loss of life tragic in itself, but it also has profound and devastating effects on families and entire communities,” said a WHO advisory. This prompted the agency to release two resources designed to strengthen suicide prevention. 

The first is “Preventing Suicide” as a resource for media professionals. It summarizes current evidence on the impact of media reporting of suicide and provides practical guidance for media professionals on how to report on suicide responsibly. The second is the WHO policy brief on the health aspects of decriminalization of suicide and suicide attempts. WHO said that the criminalization of suicide deters people from seeking timely help due to the fear of legal repercussions and stigma. 

Women are twice as likely to be diagnosed with depression and three times more likely to attempt to take their lives. Most attempts are unsuccessful though, which gives the wrong impression that they are only seeking attention.

“Suicide can be linked to multiple, complex, and intersecting social, economic, cultural, and psychological factors and challenges, including the denial of basic human rights and access to resources as well as stressful life events such as loss of livelihood, work or academic pressures, relationship breakdowns and discrimination, among others.” 

The 2030 target is to reduce the global suicide rate by one third. This goal is shared by both the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the WHO Global Mental Health Action Plan. WHO partner countries have committed to taking concrete measures to achieve the goal. 

Suicide and attempts are criminal in the laws of at least 23 countries. “The criminalization of suicide perpetuates an environment that fosters blame towards people who attempt suicide and deters people from seeking timely help due to the fear of legal repercussions and stigma,” WHO declared. Guyana, Pakistan and Singapore, are some of the countries that have recently decriminalized suicide and suicide attempts. 

“Criminalizing suicide only serves to exacerbate people’s distress. The decriminalization of suicide and suicide attempts is a critical step that governments can take in their efforts to prevent suicide. WHO is committed to supporting efforts to decriminalize suicide” said Nathalie Drew Bold, WHO technical officer. 

WHO believes that decriminalization saves lives by reducing the stigma and shame associated with suicide and promoting an environment where people feel able to seek help; allowing for improved data collection on suicide and attempts which can better inform appropriate interventions; and by increasing opportunities for awareness-raising and advocacy around suicide prevention. 

“There is overwhelming evidence that the media can play a significant role in either strengthening or undermining suicide prevention efforts. For example, evidence shows that vulnerable persons (such as those with a history of suicide attempts or thoughts, or those exposed to suicide) are at an increased risk of engaging in imitative behaviors following media reports of suicide—particularly if the coverage is extensive, prominent, sensational, explicitly describes the method of suicide, makes suicide appear to be normal, or perpetuates widely-held myths about suicide. The resource offers guidance on how to ensure that reporting on suicide is accurate, responsible, and appropriate,” they elaborated. 

WHO would like suicide prevention reporting to focus on survival and resilience. They have also set recommendations on how to report stories on recovery and mental as well as emotional well-being. 

If you or anyone you know is considering self-harm or suicide, you may call the National Mental Health Crisis hotline at 1553 (Luzon-wide, landline toll-free), 0966-351-4518 or 0917-899-USAP (8727) for Globe/TM users, or 0908-639-2672 for Smart users.