As suicide rate increases, center urges intervention

SLIGHT UPTICK::Suicide is complicated and requires everyone’s help, especially when society perpetuates the stigma surrounding it, the health minister said

By Lee I-chia  /  Staff reporter

Mon, Sep 10, 2018 - Page 3

Suicide rates have increased slightly over the past three years and an estimated 1.3 percent of Taiwanese older than 15 have considered suicide in the past year, the National Suicide Prevention Center said yesterday, urging people to help those showing signs of depression by convincing them to see a specialist.

Highlighting the theme of World Suicide Prevention Day today — “Working together to prevent suicide” — the Ministry of Health and Welfare and the center held a joint news conference in Taipei yesterday to raise public awareness about suicide.

About 800,000 people worldwide die of suicide each year, the center’s director Lee Ming-been (李明濱) said, citing WHO data.

Since the center was established, the suicide rate in Taiwan has dropped from 17.2 deaths per 100,000 people in 2005 to 15.7 deaths in 2015, Lee said, adding that since 2010, suicide had dropped from the nation’s top 10 causes of death.

However, over the past three years, the suicide rate has begun to increase, reaching 16.4 deaths per 100,000 people last year, an increase of 2.5 percent compared with the year before, Lee said.

Suicide became the nation’s 11th biggest cause of death, he said.

The suicide rate last year was higher for men than for women — 22 men per 100,000 people compared with 11 women per 100,000 people — the center said, but added that the rate for women increased 7.8 percent compared with 0.9 percent for men.

In 2006, the government started keeping track of suicide attempts and hospitals assist in reporting suicide attempts, with the number of attempts increasing from 25,201 people (28,996 reports) in 2016 to 26,387 people (30,619 reports) last year, the highest total so far, Lee said.

“Suicide is a complicated issue and requires the help of everyone, especially when society perpetuates the stigma surrounding suicide and mental illness, making people afraid to seek psychological counseling or medical attention,” Minister of Health and Welfare Chen Shih-chung (陳時中) said.

Chen said he hopes the government and civil groups would continue to work together to help more people understand suicide prevention, urging people to show more concern, listen to those around them and refer depressed people to seek treatment.

“In suicide prevention, everyone is a gatekeeper,” Lee said, adding that the center promotes the message that everyone can help prevent suicidal behavior by practicing “ask — respond — refer.”

People must “ask” the person who is emotionally distressed or depressed if they are thinking of harming themselves, “respond” by encouraging and staying with the person, and “refer” the person to professional counseling or medical treatment, he added.