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Bringing Attention to Differences in Suicide Around the World

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This is the VOA Special English Health Report.

This Friday is World Suicide Prevention Day. This year's observance is meant to bring attention to the differences among suicidal individuals and their situations around the world.

But the organizers also say that all over the world, people have something in common. They need to feel connected to others for good mental health.

The organizers include the International Association for Suicide Prevention and the World Health Organization.

The World Health Organization says that every year about one million people kill themselves. It says suicide is one of the top three causes of death among people between the ages of fifteen and forty-four.

Among people age ten to twenty-four, suicide is the second leading cause of death, after road accidents.

Lanny Berman is president of the International Association for Suicide Prevention. He points out that suicide rates differ from country to country, as do common ways that people kill themselves. As a result, he says, prevention efforts must fit with local needs.

LANNY BERMAN: "The focus is on the primary methods of suicide in developing countries which have been pesticides, pesticide poisoning and overdose. And there have been some significant efforts to develop prevention programs to reduce the use of pesticides, the availability and accessibility of pesticide."

Mr. Berman says findings from agricultural areas of Sri Lanka, India and China show promise. They show that programs are helping to limit access to these poisons.

LANNY BERMAN: "In China, particularly rural or farm women die by suicide by overdose of pesticide. And by creating lock boxes and making it more difficult to have easy accessibility to pesticides, we've been able to show that we can reduce the use of pesticides and thereby the rate of suicide."

There are often clear warning signs before a suicide attempt. Lanny Berman says individuals usually talk about the idea before they try it.

LANNY BERMAN: "When somebody communicates that they are thinking about suicide, threatening suicide, writing about it, in some way communicating that they have suicide on their brain, that indication should be taken seriously."

Another warning sign, he says, is a sudden increase in the use of drugs or alcohol. Warning signs also include expressions of hopelessness or a sense of feeling trapped.

Mr. Berman says the risk of suicide can be more difficult to identify in children. They generally communicate more with other children than with adults. But the other children often do not understand the messages.

As a result, he says, when children speak of suicide, other children rarely report it.

And that's the VOA Special English Health Report, written by Caty Weaver. You can post comments and find transcripts, MP3s and podcasts of our programs at I’m Steve Ember.