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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
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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)

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Road Traffic Accidents Cause 1.35 Mn Deaths Each Year: WHO

WHO noted that 48 middle- and high-income countries that have implemented strong road traffic laws and other safety measures have made progress in reducing road deaths.

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Traffic Crashes, Road Traffic
Two bikes were involved in an accident with a bus that crashed and turned on its roof near the town of Franschhoek, South Africa, March 7, 2015. VOA

The World Health Organization (WHO) is calling for urgent action to put a brake on road traffic crashes that kill 1.35 million people every year, mostly in poor developing countries.

In Geneva, the U.N. agency launched its global status report on road safety 2018.

The report found road traffic injuries to be the leading killer of children and young people aged five to 29 years, with a death occurring every 24 seconds. The report said more than half of those killed are pedestrians, cyclists, and motorcycle riders and passengers.

Etienne Krug, head of the U.N. Agency’s Department on Disability, Violence and Injury Prevention, called these deaths a huge inequality issue.

Traffic Signals, Road Traffic
Traffic and congestion on roads is frequent in all cities of India. Wikimedia

“Low-income countries have one percent of the vehicles in the world and 13 percent of all the deaths; while high-income countries have 40 percent of all the vehicles,” Krug said. “So, that is 40 times more, but only seven percent of the deaths.That is half of the deaths with 40 times more vehicles.”

The report said death rates are highest in Africa and lowest in Europe. Some of the key risk factors include speeding, drinking and driving, and failure to use seat belts, motorcycle helmets and child restraints.

Krug said putting the right measures in place will save lives. These include the right legislation and enforcement, creating special lanes for cyclists and improving the quality of vehicles.

Road accidents in India
Road accidents in India. Pixabay

“It is not acceptable that vehicles are being sold in developing countries that look the same as the vehicles that we see here in Switzerland or the U.S. or anywhere else, but that are not,” Krug told VOA. “Because to make them cheaper, they have been stripped of all of their safety features, such as air bags or electronic stability control, etc.”

WHO noted that 48 middle- and high-income countries that have implemented strong road traffic laws and other safety measures have made progress in reducing road deaths.

Also Read: HIV Epidemic Spreading Rapidly in Pakistan: WHO

However, it said no such progress has been made in low-income countries where safety measures are lacking. (VOA)