Policy-makers, funders, researchers and clinicians should act now to tackle high suicide rates, write André Aleman (University Medical Center Groningen) and Damiaan Denys (Academic Medical Center Amsterdam) in a Comment piece in this week’s Nature. Despite the enormous societal impact of suicide, the authors explain, little progress has been made in the scientific understanding or treatment of suicidal behaviour.
Almost 1 million people kill themselves every year - more than the number that die in homicides and war combined. A further 10 million to 20 million people attempt it. Suicide is one of the three leading causes of death in the economically most-productive age group - those aged 15–44 years - and rates have risen since the economic crisis triggered by the banking crash in 2008.
Despite this, argue Aleman and Denys, suicide research is underfunded and understudied. The authors call for four steps: recognition that suicidality is a distinct disorder, research into its mechanisms, earmarked funding for its study, and evidence-based prevention programmes. “Coordinated efforts are clearly needed from public-health authorities, clinicians and scientists,” they conclude.
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