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Suicides Can Be Prevented, Says Expert Through Government Policies

Each year, some 800,000 people worldwide die as a result of suicide

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Suicide, Life expectancy
Dorothy Paugh, a suicide prevention advocate, lost her father and her son to suicide. VOA

More people are committing suicide than ever before, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control reports, but suicide isn’t uniquely an American issue. The World Health Organization estimates that every 40 seconds, someone in the world ends his or her life.

Experts say the key to preventing suicide is to get help early and to reduce the stigma surrounding mental illness and suicide.

Dorothy Paugh was 9 years old when her father took his life.

“I count that day as the last day of my childhood,” she said, “because from that moment on, I had no sense of security.”

Paugh’s father is buried at Arlington Cemetery, a place reserved for war heroes.

“It’s important to me that people not label those who die by suicide as cowards,” she said, “because my father was brave. He fought in World War II and … I think he just got overwhelmed.”

Nearly 50 years later, Dorothy Paugh’s life was shaken again by yet another suicide.

“I lost my son in 2012,” she said.

Hopeless
Hopeless, Pixabay

“This is my favorite picture of Peter because he has a hint of a smile. It’s so understated, but he has piercing blue eyes. He’s paying attention. He’s looking at the world with love, I think.”

Each year, some 800,000 people worldwide die as a result of suicide — and that number does not include the countless others who attempt it. The World Health Organization says this translates to one self-inflicted death every 40 seconds. But the impact on families, societies and communities is far greater.

“The ripple effect is enormous,” Paugh said. My son’s “brothers, his girlfriend, myself, his father. It’s a shock that takes years to recover … to find footing again.”

Yet, experts say suicide can be prevented if governments create policies to prevent alcohol and drug abuse, make guns safer, reduce the stigma of suicide, and provide support for those suffering from depression and diseases that cause depression.

Paul Gionfrieddo, who heads Mental Health America, became an advocate for early treatment when his son developed a mental illness.

“Suicide is the ultimate stage four event for a lot of people who have serious mental illnesses and, frankly, it’s the ultimate stage four, late-stage event for a lot of people with other kinds of chronic diseases as well, too, who might not have had a mental illness,” Gionfrieddo said.

Because of her experience, Paugh became an advocate for suicide prevention.

“If we think someone may be troubled, ask them outright if they are having thoughts of suicide,” Paugh said. “It’s not a comfortable conversation, but it’s a lot more comfortable than a funeral. That’s my hope and my purpose in speaking about suicide — so people know it is preventable.”

Hanging rope
Hanging rope, Pixabay

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Mental health experts say mental health screening would help people get into treatment before their depression becomes severe. Other recommendations include reducing the social stigma associated with mental illness and making treatment more widely available. (VOA)

Next Story

WHO Calls for Better Vaccination Coverage Against Increasing Number of Measles Cases

The United Nations agency, citing preliminary data, said that more than 112,000 cases of the preventable but highly contagious disease have been reported across the globe

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Steve Sierzega receives a measles, mumps and rubella vaccine at the Rockland County Health Department in Pomona, N.Y., March 27, 2019. VOA

The number of measles cases worldwide nearly quadrupled in the first three months of the year compared to last year, the World Health Organization reported Monday.

The United Nations agency, citing preliminary data, said that more than 112,000 cases of the preventable but highly contagious disease have been reported across the globe in the January-to-March period. WHO called for better vaccination coverage against measles, which can kill or leave a child disabled for life.

Over recent months, WHO said spikes in the disease have occurred “in countries with high overall vaccination coverage, including the United States … as well as Israel, Thailand, and Tunisia, as the disease has spread fast among clusters of unvaccinated people.”

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Public health authorities worry about outbreaks in communities where vaccination rates are low, fueled by a growing movement of people who view the MMR vaccine, mumps and rubella as dangerous. VOA

“While this data is provisional and not yet complete, it indicates a clear trend,” WHO said. “Many countries are in the midst of sizeable measles outbreaks, with all regions of the world experiencing sustained rises in cases.”

The agency said the reported number of cases often lags behind the number of actual cases, meaning that the number of documented cases likely does not reflect the actual severity of the measles outbreaks.

For three weeks in a row, U.S. health authorities have added dozens of new reports of measles to its yearly total, now at 555, the biggest figure in five years. Twenty of the 50 U.S. states have now reported measles cases.

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FILE – 15-month-old August Goepferd received mumps and rubella booster shot at a clinic at Children’s Minnesota in Minneapolis. VOA

ALSO READ: New York Takes Drastic Steps to Prevent Spread of Measles Outbreak

More than half of the U.S. total — 285 cases — have been reported in New York City. Officials in the country’s largest city last week ordered mandatory measles vaccinations to halt the outbreak that has been concentrated among ultra-Orthodox Jews in the city’s Brooklyn borough.

City health department officials blamed anti-vaccine propagandists for distributing misinformation in the community. (VOA)