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Suicide: Second Leading Cause of Death in 15- to 29-Year-Olds

Suicide was the second leading cause of death among 15- to 29-year-olds in 2016, according to sobering data from the World Health Organization.1 Only road injuries claimed more lives in this age group. Further, nearly 800,000 people take their own life worldwide every year, with 79% of suicides taking place in low- and middle-income countries, WHO reported.

However, high-income countries had the highest rate of suicide, at 11.5 per 100,000 people.2 WHO first called on countries to implement suicide prevention strategies five years ago with the publication of their first global report on suicide. The number of countries implementing such plans has increased since then, but still only 38 countries have committed to suicide prevention activities.

“Despite progress,” said WHO Director-General, Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, “one person still dies every 40 seconds from suicide.”

Suicide Kills More People Than War, Malaria or Breast Cancer

In calling suicide a “serious global public health issue,” WHO said the nearly 800,000 people who die by suicide annually is more than the number of people killed by malaria, breast cancer, war or homicide.3 Even among teenagers aged 15 to 19 years, suicide is the second leading cause of death after road injury.

There are also disparities by sex in high-income countries, where close to three times more men than women commit suicide. In low- and middle-income countries, suicide rates are similar among men and women.4 As for who is most at risk, there’s a strong link between mental disorders such as depression and alcohol use disorders and suicide in high-income countries.

“ … [M]any suicides happen impulsively in moments of crisis with a breakdown in the ability to deal with life stresses, such as financial problems, relationship break-up or chronic pain and illness,” WHO noted, adding:5

“In addition, experiencing conflict, disaster, violence, abuse, or loss and a sense of isolation are strongly associated with suicidal behaviour.

Suicide rates are also high amongst vulnerable groups who experience discrimination, such as refugees and migrants; indigenous peoples; lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex (LGBTI) persons; and prisoners. By far the strongest risk factor for suicide is a previous suicide attempt.”

Pesticide Regulation ‘Highly Effective’ to Reduce Suicides

It’s estimated that self-poisoning with pesticides is responsible for 20% of suicides worldwide,6 primarily in rural agricultural areas in low- and middle-income countries. In India, alone, about 16,000 farmers die due to suicide every year.7 Financial problems linked to crop losses caused by a lack of water are sometimes the driving force. According to the Indian Journal of Psychiatry:8

“At the local and individual farmer level, rising cost on inputs (seeds, electricity, and fertilizers), nonavailability of easy credits, and poor protection against unpredictable outputs have been the proximate causes of farmer distress and suicide.”

Some studies alternatively suggest the suicides could be driven by neural disorders caused by pesticide exposure,9 whereas psychiatric illness and stressful life events, including crop failure, interpersonal problems, medical illness and marriage of a female family member, have also been linked to suicide in farmers of rural India.10 Even in the U.S., however, suicide is a problem among farmers.11

Hanging and firearms were also named as common methods of suicide, but because intentional pesticide poisoning is so common among farmers, WHO cited reducing access to pesticides as an “underused but highly effective strategy” for suicide prevention:12

“The intervention that has the most imminent potential to bring down the number of suicides is restricting access to pesticides that are used for self-poisoning. The high toxicity of many pesticides means that such suicide attempts often lead to death, particularly in situations where there is no antidote or where there are no medical facilities nearby.”

In their report, “Preventing Suicide: A Resource for Pesticide Registrars and Regulators,”13 WHO cites success stories in Sri Lanka, where pesticide bans have reduced suicide rates by 70%, saving 93,000 lives from 1995 to 2015. Similarly, in the Republic of Korea, where paraquat was the leading pesticide involved in suicides, banning it cut suicide deaths in half between 2011 and 2013.14

A move toward regenerative agriculture, which does not rely on chemical pesticides, could also help.One of the biggest fears among farmers is that they will be the generation who failed and lost the farm, says soil health and holistic grazing consultant Allen Williams, Ph.D., of Soil Health Consultants LLC, adding that at one time his own family farm, a multigenerational tradition, was at risk of collapse.

Data from the Chicago Federal Reserve found that 7% of farm borrowers in the Chicago Fed district, which consists of all of Iowa and most of Illinois, Indiana, Michigan and Wisconsin, were struggling to repay operating loans that help buy seed, pay rent and fund equipment.15

Fortunately, regenerative agriculture may help, as farmers can start implementing practices at no cost that offer big benefits, such as relieving financial burdens, particularly in the form of chemical inputs, and will increase productivity within the first year, explains Williams in the film, “Farmer’s Footprint / Regeneration: The Beginning.”Advertisement

Other WHO-Recommended Suicide Prevention Strategies

In addition to reducing access to pesticides, WHO suggested suicides could be prevented and controlled via a number of population-wide and individual efforts, such as:16

Reducing access to firearms and certain medications (antidepressants, for instance, may increase suicide risk)Responsible reporting by media
School-based interventionsIntroducing alcohol policies to reduce harmful alcohol use
Early identification, treatment and care of people with mental and substance abuse disorders, chronic pain and acute emotional distressTraining of health workers to assess and manage suicidal behavior
Follow-up care for people who attempted suicide

Suicide on the Rise in the US

Suicide rates increased across the U.S. from 1999 to 2016, with nearly 45,000 suicide deaths occurring in 2016. In 54% of the deaths, there were no known mental health disorders.17Top factors contributing to suicide in the U.S. include:18

Relationship problemsCrisis in the past or upcoming two weeks
Problematic substance abusePhysical health problem
Job or financial problemsCriminal legal problem
Loss of housing

According to the CDC, the 12 warning signs that someone may be contemplating or getting close to suicide are:19

Feeling like a burdenBeing isolatedIncreased anxiety
Feeling trapped or in unbearable painIncreased substance useLooking for a way to access lethal means
Increased anger or rageExtreme mood swingsExpressing hopelessness
Sleeping too little or too muchTalking or posting about wanting to dieMaking plans for suicide

If you notice one or more of these signs, take the following five steps to help. For more information about how to prevent suicide, see

  1. Ask how they are feeling and if they are considering ending their life, or if they have a plan to do so
  2. Don’t let them be alone and do your best to keep them safe
  3. Make yourself available to them
  4. Reach out to them daily and help them connect to others
  5. Follow up

Twelve Antidepressant Nutrients

Depression is not the only factor in suicide, but people with depression are at increased suicide risk. In the U.S. 7.1% of U.S adults suffered from a depressive episode in the past year20 while, worldwide, 300 million people suffer from depression, making it a leading cause of disability.21

Despite this, only about one-third of Americans with depression get treated,22 which puts the remaining two-thirds left untreated at increased risk of suicide and with a lower quality of life.

Antidepressant drugs, which may increase suicide risk, are not the answer for most. Fortunately, there are many alternatives to drugs for treating depression, including nutritional interventions, light therapy, exercise and more. If you’re struggling with depression, you needn’t suffer in silence. Seek help, from a counselor, a holistic psychiatrist or another natural health practitioner to start the journey toward healing.

The foods you eat can also make a difference. As noted in the World Journal of Psychiatry, 12 antidepressant nutrients may help in the prevention and treatment of depressive disorders.23 This includes:

FolateIronOmega-3 fats (EPA and DHA)
ThiamineVitamin AVitamin B6
Vitamin B12Vitamin CZinc

“The highest scoring foods were bivalves such as oysters and mussels, various seafoods, and organ meats for animal foods. The highest scoring plant foods were leafy greens, lettuces, peppers, and cruciferous vegetables,” the researchers noted. Magnesium supplements, for instance, led to improvements in mild-to-moderate depression in adults, with beneficial effects occurring within two weeks of treatment.24

Limiting sugar is also important, as men consuming high amounts of sugar per day were 23 percent more likely to develop anxiety or depression over the course of five years than those whose sugar consumption was lower.25

EFT for Resolving Emotional Conflicts

Like so many other families, I have been personally affected by depression. My mother suffered from this problem for a time and made several unsuccessful suicide attempts that devastated me. This occurred just as I was making the transition into energy medicine, so initially she was treated with medications.

However, the medications and inpatient care were a terrible failure. Ultimately, it was energetic techniques that helped her fully recover from her depression.

Learning how to use an energy psychology tool like the Emotional Freedom Techniques (EFT) can make an enormous difference if you suffer from depression or any other kind of emotional dysfunction.

This energy psychology tool is one of the most powerful methods I know of, and is a crucial element of any successful treatment program. In the video below, EFT practitioner Julie Schiffman demonstrates how to use this technique for depression.

Cognitive behavioral therapy, which works as well as antidepressants and may reduce your risk of relapse even after it’s stopped, may also be helpful.26 No matter what type of treatment you ultimately decide on, the important first step is getting help.

If you live in the U.S. and are having thoughts of suicide, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 or text 741-741 for the Crisis Text Line. If you are in danger of acting on suicidal thoughts, call 911 for immediate assistance.

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About Dr. Joseph Mercola (67 Articles)
Dr. Mercola finished his family practice residency in 1985 but was trained by the conventional model. In his first years of private practice, he treated many symptoms with prescription drugs and was actually a paid speaker for the drug companies. But as he began to experience the failures of this model in his practice, he embraced natural medicine and has had an opportunity over the last thirty years to apply these time tested approaches successfully with thousands of patients in his clinic. Over 15 years ago he founded to share his experiences with others. The site is the most visited natural health site in the world for the last seven years with nearly two million subscribers. He's also written two NY Times bestselling books, and has had frequent appearances on national media including the Dr. Oz show and major news channels.

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