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PAHO – United States National Institute of Mental Health discuss suicide prevention in the Americas

WASHINGTON, USA – The Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) and the United States National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) brought together policy-makers,  civil society and researchers this week to discuss advances and gaps in suicide prevention research, as well as to exchange experiences on evidence-based prevention strategies and identify priorities for suicide prevention in the region of the Americas.

During the event, Forging Connections: Bridging Policy and Research for Suicide Prevention in the Americas: A Joint PAHO/NIMH Symposium, participants highlighted the importance of quality data and research for the development of evidence-based prevention policies and programs, and stressed the need for multisectoral collaboration to tackle increasing rates of death by suicide, which claims over 93,000 lives in the rgion each year.

“Suicide is a public health priority for the region of the Americas, and one which we can no longer afford to underprioritize,” PAHO deputy director, Mary Lou Valdez said during her opening remarks at the symposium.

While suicide mortality rates have decreased globally by 36 percent between 2000 and 2019, the Americas saw a 17 percent increase in the number of deaths by suicide during the same period. It is currently the third leading cause of death among young people aged 20 to 24 in the region.

“The impact of the many lives lost to suicide transcends numbers and percentages,” the PAHO deputy director added. “Every death by suicide represents a profound loss, not only for that individual’s family and friends, but for entire communities and society.”

Addressing suicide requires accelerated and coordinated actions by countries and strategic partners. These should include the development and monitoring of indicators on mental health and suicide to facilitate evidence-informed decisions based on a comprehensive understanding of local contexts.

Locally relevant research on suicide and related risk factors is also crucial to determining effective measures that could contribute to reducing suicide rates across the region.

During the symposium, the attendants participated in panel discussions on a variety of topics. These included strengthening suicide surveillance systems; reducing access to lethal means; fostering socio-emotional life skills in adolescents; responsible reporting on suicide; early identification, assessment, management and follow up for people affected by suicide; and supporting research on suicide prevention.

PAHO works with countries of the Americas to reduce suicide mortality using the World Health Organization (WHO) LIVE LIFE Intervention Guide for Suicide Prevention in Countries, which includes a package of evidence-based strategies and tools.

The PAHO high-level commission on mental health and COVID-19 outlined suicide prevention as one of its ten priority areas to advance mental health in the Americas. Addressing suicide is also underscored in the PAHO Strategy for Improving Mental Health and Suicide Prevention in the region of the Americas, which was approved during the 60th PAHO directing council in September 2023.



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