28 September 2006

Better Understanding Should Help Prevent Unnecessary Suicides, Secretary-General Says in World Mental Health Day Message

NEW YORK, 27 September (UN Headquarters) -- Following is the text of United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan's message on World Mental Health Day, to be observed on 10 October:

We are all deeply concerned -- and rightly so -- about deaths resulting from wars, homicide, terrorism and other forms of violence.  Yet, deaths due to suicide, and the factors that can lead to it, do not receive nearly enough attention.  There are about one million self-inflicted deaths each year.  If we add to that the many attempted suicides, we can see the real scale of this public health problem and human tragedy -- one which affects tens of millions of people.

The heartening news is that we now have a better understanding of suicidal behaviours.  This should help us to prevent many unnecessary deaths, protect people at risk and to support bereaved families.

One of the most important risk factors for suicide is the presence of a mental disorder, such as depression or schizophrenia.  Another is a previous suicide attempt -- which makes it all the more imperative for those in need to receive prompt and effective help.  But, although there are efficient and affordable ways of dealing with these disorders, not everybody in need has access to treatment.  A lack of trained personnel and medication is compounded by ignorance about mental disorders and suicidal behaviours, and the stigma attached to them.

Left untreated, mental illness can be fatal.  One of the best ways of reducing the disastrous impact of suicide is to tackle, in a community environment, the mental disorders that are linked so closely to it.  On this World Mental Health Day, let us vow to act on that understanding.  Let us give suicide the attention it needs.

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