One in 100 deaths worldwide due to suicide

·5 min read
Side view young woman looking away at window sitting on couch at home. Frustrated confused female feels unhappy problem in personal life quarrel break up with boyfriend or unexpected pregnancy concept
Suicide is a leading cause of death around the world. (Posed by a model, Getty Images)

Suicide was behind one in every 100 deaths globally in 2019, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).

More than 700,000 people died by suicide in that year alone – exceeding the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), malaria, breast cancer, war and murder.

Suicide is the fourth leading cause of death among 15 to 29 year olds – behind road injuries, tuberculosis and "interpersonal violence".

Although suicide rates are falling have been falling in recent years, decreasing by 36% between 2000 and 2019, the coronavirus pandemic has worsened mental health worldwide.

Millions of people in the UK have endured loneliness, depression and anxiety brought on by the lockdowns and the economic uncertainty caused by the pandemic.

In April 2021, scientists from the University of Manchester reported the number of suicides in England did not rise after the first national lockdown. 

Nevertheless, half a million Britons were taking an online suicide prevention course during the height of the restrictions.

Read more: Depression common after mild or severe coronavirus

Loving african american single mother sister embrace teen daughter sit on bed looking at window, parent mom hug support protect teenage girl, family trust hope talk understanding concept, rear view
Talking to someone about their suicidal thoughts can help to prevent them from taking their own life. (Getty)

Read more: 'Steep rise' in depression among children in first lockdown

"We cannot, and must not, ignore suicide," said Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, director-general of the WHO.  

"Each one is a tragedy.  

"Our attention to suicide prevention is even more important now, after many months living with the COVID-19 pandemic, with many of the risk factors for suicide – job loss, financial stress and social isolation – still very much present."

Read more: Lockdown more than doubled postnatal depression among new mothers

Read more: Headache with coronavirus linked to later depression

Suicide rates vary between different countries and sexes.

On a global scale, 12.6 in every 100,000 males died by suicide in 2019, more than twice the 5.4 per 100,000 females.

Among men, suicide rates were generally higher in developed countries, affecting 16.5 in every 100,000 males. In lower-to-middle income countries, more women died by suicide – 7.1 per 100,000.

Africa had the highest suicide rate in 2019, affecting 11.2 per 100,000 people.

This was followed by Europe – 10.5 per 100,000 – and South East Asia – 10.2 per 100,000. All three regions were higher than the nine per 100,000 global average.

The Eastern Mediterranean region had the lowest suicide rate, at 6.4 per 100,000.

The WHO has accused many countries of being "uncommitted" to combatting suicide, with just 38 nations known to have a national prevention strategy.

The organisation is aiming to cut global suicide rates by a third by 2030, adding "significant acceleration" is required to meet this goal.

Watch: Nature boosts mental health

How to spot when someone may be having suicidal thoughts

People with suicidal thoughts may have been enduring emotions of worthlessness or helplessness for some time.

Many of those who experience these emotions are depressed, which can lead to substance abuse, fatigue, and disturbed eating or sleeping patterns. Some also lose interest in activities they once enjoyed, like sex.

They may struggle to concentrate, remember things or make decisions. Some could also appear irritable, tearful or panicky.

People may just act "out of sorts", whether that is being unusually quiet, confrontational or reckless.

Look out for signs someone may be preparing to end their life, like making a will or giving away their possessions.

Ultimately, trust your instincts.

How to talk to someone about their suicidal thoughts

When it comes to helping someone who is considering suicide, The Samaritans stresses you do not have to be an expert, just listening can often help people work through what's on their mind.

Talking to someone about their suicidal thoughts does not make them more likely to end their life.

When it comes to starting the conversation, find somewhere quiet, where you will not be interrupted. Set aside plenty of time and ensure you are both physically comfortable.

To show you care, put away your phone and maintain eye contact.

Resolve not to talk about yourself, make it all about the other person.

The first attempt to start this conversation may be unsuccessful. Remember, it can take a lot for a person to open up and they should not feel rushed. If they pause, do not try and fill the silence. 

Aim for open-ended questions that have more than just a "yes" or "no" response. Try: "How are you feeling today?" You could then follow their answer with: "Tell me more."

Show empathy by saying: "I can't imagine how painful this is for you, but I would like to try to understand."

Repeating their response shows they have your undivided attention. It also reassures them you have not misunderstood or made your own interpretations.

If you feel you have said the wrong thing, do not panic. You could follow with: "I realise that was insensitive. I'm sorry. I'm still here for you."

Reassure the person the feeling will not last forever, while encouraging them to get through the day rather than looking to the future.

Importantly, do not tell them to "cheer up" or "pull themselves together". Do not say they should not be feeling the way they do or they should be grateful for their good life. This can make them feel rejected, ignored, patronised or guilty.

If a loved one still feels low after talking it through, they may need extra support from a counsellor.

Call 999 if someone is speaking of attempting suicide or has hurt themselves.

Caring for someone in distress can trigger low mood in itself. Ensure you reach out for support if it all gets too much.

For confidential emotional support at times of distress, contact The Samaritans at any time by calling 116 123 or emailing

Watch: Omega-3 fatty acids boost mental health

Our goal is to create a safe and engaging place for users to connect over interests and passions. In order to improve our community experience, we are temporarily suspending article commenting