Suicide is a topic that while gaining more and more recognition in terms of the global concern over increasing numbers of people both young and old dying, the reasons for people choosing to die remains baffling. It is estimated that 800,000 to over one million people die by suicide somewhere in the world each year (depending on which stats you read). One person dies by suicide every 40 seconds. The global suicide rate is 16 per 100,000 population. There has been an increase of 60% of suicide deaths in the past 45 years.
Focusing for a moment only on children and youth, suicide is the second biggest killer of young people worldwide. It is the same for Canada, the USA and is one of the leading causes of death in the UK for people 10 to 34 years old, with the numbers rising. Overall, suicide rates are the highest in Europe, followed by South East Asia, the Western Pacific (includes Australia and New Zealand) and the Americas. Probably, though this could be a stretch – I’m going to assume that most people don’t think about suicide unless they’ve been touched by it.
How well we handle difficult and sudden loss and do or don’t recover from it – especially the death of a child – may depend on the early attachment style or relationship we formed to our primary caregiver(s) from infancy through childhood. If this was not a secure attachment, which is the optimal environment in which to be raised, we learned the same defensive patterns our parents or other caregivers used to defend against their negative experiences or trauma, and relied on these throughout our adulthood to protect ourselves against any negative affects we may have encountered along the way.
Right now, there is concern by parents in the UK that social media is responsible for the recent suicides of dozens of young teens in that country . Discussion is ramping up amongst lawmakers about how best to legislate social media companies to remove and ban all content that may promote self-harm. Legislators are as concerned as parents. There is hope they can work with social media companies to find a solution to this endemic problem that still respects freedom of the internet, but where sufficient controls can be put in place to effectively guard it.
Drawing on my former experience working in privacy, I’m not sure if this is wishful thinking on the part of lawmakers or not, but as a mom whose daughter died by suicide in 2005 after viewing content on a self-harm site that offered methods on how to complete suicide, I can relate to the fears parents face today, where almost anything can be readily accessed online. I can also appreciate the difficulty experts may be facing establishing law to ban this content, yet still protect the rights of individuals to access information.