The Coordinating Minister of Health and Social Welfare, Prof Ali Pate, on Monday, said strengthening economic support, improving access to qualitative and affordable mental health services, and creating a protective environment by reducing access to lethal means among people at risk of suicide, are evidence-based strategies proven to prevent suicide.

Pate also said promoting connectedness through peer norm programmes and community engagement, teaching coping and problem-solving skills, identifying and supporting people at risk of suicide, lessen harm and prevent future risk, and collating data on suicidal behaviours to inform planning and intervention.

Pate said this at a press briefing in commemoration of the 2023 World Suicide Prevention Day in Abuja, with the theme, ‘Creating hope through action.’

Every year, the WSPD is commemorated on September 10, to raise awareness that suicide is preventable.

Globally, it is estimated that over 700,000 people commit suicide annually, of which 77 per cent of these cases occur in low and middle-income countries, according to the World Health Organisation.

The global health body said, “For every suicide, there are likely 20 other people making a suicide attempt, and many more have serious thoughts of suicide.

“Suicide is the fourth leading cause of death among the 15 to 29 years old.”

Pate, who was represented by the Director of Neglected Tropical Diseases, Department of Public Health, Federal Ministry of Health, Adebayo Peters, at the briefing, said suicide is a major preventable cause of premature death which is influenced by psychosocial, cultural, and environmental risk factors.

He said the risk factors include a history of existing mental disorders, undiagnosed mental health problems, alcohol, and substance abuse, isolation, significant life events like loss of loved ones, unemployment, and access to means of suicide, among others.

“There is nothing good about suicide. For every suicide, the consequences extend beyond the loss of life to the families and communities affected by that loss. Many who have lost their loved ones to suicide never recovered from the devastating effects.

“It is therefore imperative that stakeholders should do all that is possible to prevent suicide.”

He noted that the definition of suicide as a public health problem rather than a clinical problem is a paradigm shift that has significant implications in addressing it.

He said Nigeria has made progress on suicide prevention and addressing the mental well-being of the population.

“Some of the progress we have made includes the presidential assent to the National Mental Act 2021, which replaced the archaic lunacy law of 1958. The Act will increase access to mental health services for all Nigerians and ensure the rights of people living with mental health conditions are protected and respected.”

He added that there is an ongoing development of the implementation roadmap for the Mental Health Act to suicide in the country.

The WHO Country Representative in Nigeria, Dr. Walter Kazadi, said suicides are preventable with timely, evidence-based, and often low-cost interventions.

Kazadi, who was represented by the WHO Deputy Country Representative, Alexander Chimbaru, however, said for national responses to be effective, a comprehensive multi-sectoral suicide prevention strategy is needed.

“In 2013, the World Health Assembly adopted the Mental Health Action Plan 2013-2030 and identified suicide prevention as an important priority for achieving the global target of reducing the rate of suicide in countries by 10 per cent by 2020.

“Nigeria has shown commitment to this target by, among others, establishing the National Mental Health Programme in the FMoH to provide strategic leadership on mental health interventions including the implementation of the new National Mental Act 2021.”

WHO pledged to continue supporting the country in implementing project activities towards mental health, including suicide prevention and control.

Also, the Disability Inclusion Advisor, CBM Global Disability Inclusion (Nigeria), Sulayman Ujah, said good health can be achieved through creating access to mental health and preventing suicide related to disability.

Ujah also called for the decriminalisation of suicide