World Mental Health Day: Focus on Suicide Prevention
World Mental Health Day: Focus on Suicide Prevention
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World Mental Health
Day is celebrated in over 100 countries through local, regional, and national
events and activities. It is organized by the World Federation for Mental
Health (WFMH), Occoquan, Virginia, USA, with support from the World Health
Organization (WHO), Geneva, Switzerland. This year besides WHO, two other
organizations are also providing support, namely, the International Association
for Suicide Prevention (IASP), Washington DC, USA and United for Global Mental
Health, London, UK.

‘World Mental Health Day is celebrated annually on 10th October and aims to create awareness about mental illnesses and the importance of seeking medical help. This year 2019 theme focuses on ‘Suicide Prevention’.’
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The awareness color for
World Mental Health Day is ‘Green’.
Hence, as a part of the celebrations, people
from around the world will be wearing ‘Green’, such as green colored T-shirts,
caps, ribbons, and lapel pins to show their support for people suffering from
mental illnesses.

The Instagram hashtag for World
Mental Health Day is #worldmentalhealthday. So, messages, infographics,
stories, and news related to mental health can be shared instantly with
friends, loved ones and the larger global community.

Importance of Mental Health

health and wellbeing is just as important as physical health and needs to be
taken care of, whether mental illness is present or not. Mental wellbeing
refers to how an individual feels and how well he/she can cope with day-to-day
life. Mental health problems affect around 12 percent of
the world’s population, which translates into 450 million or one in every four
individuals. Mental illnesses can range from common problems such as anxiety
and depression to rarer ones, such as bipolar disorder and schizophrenia, among many others.

of World Mental Health Day

World Mental Health Day was established on 10th
October, 1992 by the World Federation for Mental Health (WFMH), under the
leadership of the then Deputy Secretary General of WFMH, Richard Hunter. Till
1994, there was no theme for World Mental Health Day. In that year, the then
Secretary General Eugene Brody suggested that each year the celebrations should
have a specific theme. The first theme in 1994 was ‘Improving the Quality of Mental Health Services throughout the World.’

World Mental Health Day Theme 2019: Focus on
‘Suicide Prevention’

The 2019 World
Mental Health Day theme is ‘Mental
Health Promotion and Suicide Prevention.’
The primary
objective of
making suicide prevention the theme for 2019 is to attract the attention of governments
so that the issue of
mental health is prioritized in public health agendas in all countries around
the world.

Suicide: Facts & Figures

  • 800,000 people die by suicide annually worldwide
  • Every 40 seconds someone dies by suicide
  • Suicide is the second leading cause of death
    among 15-29 year-olds
  • For every person who dies by suicide, more than 20
    others attempt suicide
  • A prior suicide attempt is the highest risk factor
    for further suicide attempts
  • 79 percent of suicides occur in low- and
    middle-income countries (LMICs)
  • Hanging, shooting, and ingestion of pesticides are the most common
    methods of suicide

Suicide: Implications & Complications

David Émile
Durkheim, the noted French sociologist, gave the best definition of suicide
as: “a term applied to all cases
of death resulting directly or indirectly from a positive or negative act of
the victim himself, which he knows will produce this result

Suicidal behavior
has existed since time immemorial. Suicide has been an active area of study for
centuries in many disciplines, including Medicine, Psychology, Sociology,
Bioethics, Law, and even Religion and Philosophy. In recent decades, the
incidence of suicide has increased dramatically across the world due to the
interplay of various complex factors and currently has reached alarming levels.
Although it is often believed that suicide is confined only to adults, it is
also prevalent in children and adolescents, resulting from violence, bullying,
and sexual abuse.

Since suicidal
behavior has become a global public health problem, its prevention requires a
multi-pronged approach, involving various stakeholders such as psychiatrists,
psychologists, lawyers, decision-makers, educationists, mental health
counselors, policymakers, scientific organizations, and national health
authorities. Moreover, the role of print and electronic media is no less
important, as the media plays a vital role in creating public awareness and
shaping public opinion.

Challenges in Preventing Suicides

The major challenges for preventing suicides are stigma and taboo,
as well as the lack of quality data on which preventive strategies can be
based. These are briefly discussed below:

  • Stigma and Taboo: Mentaldisorders are associated with
    stigma in many societies. Hence, people suffering from mental problems
    hesitate to open up and talk about their
    condition, which is still considered to be a taboo in many parts of the
    globe. As a result, treatment-seeking behavior is low among psychiatric
    patients, which often leads to suicides. Hence, there is an urgent need to
    break-down the taboo surrounding mental
    in order to make progress in developing strategies to
    prevent suicides
  • Lack of Quality Data: There is a
    severe lack of high-quality dataonsuicide and suicide attempts, with only 80 countries having
    good-quality suicide registries. Hence, there is a need for improved
    surveillance and monitoring of suicide and suicide attempts in order to
    implement preventive strategies

WHO Initiatives Promoting Mental Health

The World Health
Organization (WHO) aims to prevent suicides by promoting overall mental health.
This has resulted in several initiatives, which are indicated below:

  • WHO World
    Suicide Report:
    This report entitled ‘Preventing Suicide: A Global Imperative’ was first published
    in 2014. This report highlights the public health significance of suicide
    in order to make suicide prevention a global priority
  • WHO Mental
    Health Gap Action Program (mhGAP):
    Suicide has also been prioritized
    in this program, which was launched in 2008. This initiative provides
    evidence-based guidance on ways to prevent mental health
    by addressing the gaps in knowledge
  • WHO Mental
    Health Action Plan (2013-2020):
    This initiative was adopted by the 66th
    World Health Assembly. The action plan calls for changes in attitudes that
    give rise to stigma and discrimination against people suffering from
    mental disorders. The major objective of this action plan is to achieve
    the global target of reducing suicide rates by 10 percent by 2020

Indian Initiatives Promoting Mental Health

The Government of
India has launched several initiatives to promote mental health. These are
highlighted below:

  • National Mental Health
    Program (NMHP):
    This program was launched by the
    Government of India way back in 1982. The primary goal of the program is
    to ensure that at least minimal mental healthcare is available and
    accessible to all Indians. As part of the National Program is the District
    Mental Health Program, which operates at the grassroots level. This
    district program focuses on integrating mental healthcare with primary
  • Mental Healthcare Act
    This Act was passed by the
    Indian Parliament on 7th April 2017 and came into force from 7th
    July 2018. This Act ensures the right to quality mental healthcare and services to all Indians
    suffering from mental illnesses
  • Adolescent Reproductive
    and Sexual Health (ARSH) Program:

    This program is a component of the National Health Mission (NHM) and
    provides various health services specifically for adolescents and young
  • Other Initiatives: Some other initiatives of the Government of India include the
    National Social Service Scheme, the Nehru
    Yuva Kendra Sangathan
    , and the National Youth Policy 2014, which
    encourage all-round physical and mental development of Indian youths


We all have a role
to play in suicide prevention and collectively
we can make a difference and save lives. Efforts to prevent suicide are more
likely to succeed when there is a broad participation and a shared commitment
to meet common goals. Collaborative efforts are also likely to be more
sustained when resources are shared, such as staff, responsibilities,
materials, funds, knowledge, and research findings.

this World Mental Health Day, let’s get together to generate awareness in a unifying voice,
showing empathy towards those suffering from mental illnesses, helping them to
better cope and manage the disease. This will help create hope and empower them
to take action and fight the disease to make a long-lasting positive impact on
their lives.

References :

  1. World Mental Health Day 2019: Focus on Suicide Prevention – World Health Organization (
  2. Suicide Prevention – World Health Organization(
  3. World Mental Health Day 2019: Mental Health Promotion and Suicide Prevention – World Federation for Mental Health(
  4. There is No Health Without Mental Health – World Federation for Mental Health(
  5. Suicide – World Health Organization(

Source: Medindia

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