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  • "Suicide is a global public health issue. All ages, sexes and regions of the world are affected (and) each loss is one too many," the WHO's report said. | Photo: Reuters

Published 10 September 2019

Uruguay has the highest number of suicides in Latin America, with a rate of 18.4 per 100,000 inhabitants.

Around 800,000 people – one person every 40 seconds – commit suicide every year, and more people die by suicide every year than in war, the World Health Organization warned Monday.

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Hanging, poisoning and shooting are the most common methods, the Health Organization said as it urged governments to adopt suicide prevention plans to help people cope with stress and to reduce access to suicide means.

"Suicides are preventable," said the WHO's Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, adding that "we call on all countries to incorporate proven suicide prevention strategies into national health and education programs."

The agency advocated new legislation restricting access to firearms, which it said had worked in Australia, Canada, New Zealand, Norway in the United Kingdom as well as certain pesticides, which are often used in rural areas.

Pesticides are commonly used and usually result in death because they are so toxic, have no antidotes, and are often used in remote areas where there is no nearby medical help.

Suicide was the second leading cause of death among young people aged between 15 and 29, after road injury, and among teenage girls aged 15 to 19, it was the second biggest killer after maternal conditions. In teenage boys, suicide ranked third behind road injury and interpersonal violence.

Overall, close to 800,000 people die by suicide every year, more than those killed by malaria, breast cancer,  war or even homicide. Although global rates have fallen in recent years, with a 9.8 percent decrease between 2010 and 2016, the declines were patchy. In the WHO's Americas region, for example, rates rose by six percent in the same period.

Uruguay has the highest number of suicides in Latin America, with a rate of 18.4 per 100,000 inhabitants.

The report also found that nearly three times as many men as women die by suicide in wealthy countries, in contrast to low- and middle-income countries, where the rates are more equal.

Only five countries studied by the WHO had female suicide rates higher than their male counterparts: China, Lesotho, Morocco, Bangladesh, and Myanmar. 

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