UN agency seeks to curb huge but largely preventable problem of suicide

“Suicide is a tragic global public health problem,” World Health Organization (WHO) Assistant-Director General for Noncommunicable Diseases and Mental Health Catherine Le Galès-Camus said ahead of World Suicide Prevention Day being marked on Friday. “There is an urgent need for coordinated and intensified global action to prevent this needless toll.” The agency has produced a series of guidelines for different audiences that have a critical role in suicide prevention, including health workers, teachers, prison officers, media professionals and survivors of suicide. It stressed early identification and treatment of mental disorders as an important preventive strategy. The Director of WHO’s Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse, Benedetto Saraceno, underlined the role played by the media, citing evidence that coverage can encourage imitation suicides and urging sensitivity in reporting on “these tragic and frequently avoidable deaths.” “The media can also play a major role in reducing stigma and discrimination associated with suicidal behaviours and mental disorders,” he added. Suicidal behaviour has a large number of complex underlying causes, including poverty, unemployment, loss of loved ones, arguments, breakdown in relationships and legal or work-related problems. The most common methods are pesticides, firearms and medication, such as painkillers, according to WHO, which emphasized that availability of these means plays an important role in the phenomenon. “Having access to the means of suicide is both an important risk factor and determinant of suicide,” said Professor Lars Mehlum, President of International Association for Suicide Prevention, a non-governmental organization collaborating with WHO on the issue. One recent breakthrough was the move by many pharmaceutical companies to market painkillers in blister packs rather than more easily accessible bottles, which had a significant impact on their use as a suicide method, the agency said. Currently attention is focused on encouraging a reduction in access to pesticides, including safer storage and proper dilutions. read more

Cambodia must ensure National Assembly represents all parties – UN expert

“Every country that undergoes a transition to democracy faces a moment when the rules must change. Cambodia is facing such a moment now,” said the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the country, Surya P. Subedi.On Sunday, the Cambodian National Assembly opened with the presence of only one party. However, Mr. Subedi argued that the Assembly should be represented by the two key parties, as the widely disputed election results indicate that “roughly half of the population voted for one party and half for the other.”“It is critical for the new National Assembly to be represented by the two key parties, for the National Assembly to be truly representative of the whole of the Cambodian people and for it to be concluded that the right to vote was effectively exercised on 28 July,” he said.Mr. Subedi urged that dialogue continue at an appropriate decision-making level, with a view to resolving the current impasse without further delay. He also reiterated his call for calm and restraint. The Special Rapporteur noted the general restraint exercised by the Cambodian authorities in the use of force in the past weeks, but said he was “gravely concerned” by what he described as “indiscriminate and excessive use of force” in several recent incidents, and urged authorities to allow future demonstrations to proceed without undue restrictions. “I continue to believe that the leaders of Cambodia can still, even at this late stage, make this election a milestone in the journey to making Cambodia a just, equitable, and free society,” Mr. Subedi said. “It is my sincere hope that in the process, the situation will be resolved without further loss of life, and that the will of the people will be reflected in the new governance structure that will lead the country on its path to a true democracy.” Mr. Subedi today presented his fifth report to the Geneva-based UN Human Rights Council, which includes recommendations to the Government. “My reports on judicial, parliamentary and electoral reform can serve as guidelines to parliamentarians from both political parties as the country takes the road towards a fuller liberal democracy underpinned by sustainable peace and equitable economic development,” he added.Independent experts or special rapporteurs are appointed by the Council to examine and report back, in an unpaid capacity, on specific human rights themes. read more