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Forty-three thousand people in the European community took their own lives in the last year and more than 700 000 attempted suicide1. In the United States, a person successfully commits suicide about once every 15 minutes and it is estimated that an attempt is made about once a minute2.

· Isolation is a major cause of suicide. The increasing number of men remaining single or becoming divorced may explain up to one half of the increase in male suicides observed since the early 1970s3.

· There are four male suicides for every female incidence of suicide however, at least twice as many females as males attempt suicide2.

· Depression is the dominant factor in suicide. Between 90 and 97 percent of suicide victims have a mental illness at the time of their death4 and studies have shown that up to 60 percent of people who commit suicide suffered from depression.

· By the year 2002, depressive illness will move from fourth to second in the rank order of worldwide disease burden.

· Treatment of individuals with depression is responsible for nearly eight percent of the total global economic health burden and contributes to more than 17 percent of disability of the total global economic health problems worldwide5.

· In 1990, it was estimated that depression cost society $23.8 billion in lost productivity and $7.5 billion in depression-related suicide costs6.

· An international survey conducted by the Global Alliance of Mental Illness Advocacy Networks (GAMIAN) reveals that the vast majority of people delay seeking initial treatment for depression for a number of years.

· The same survey also found that over one-third of depressed people who visit a health professional never received a correct diagnosis for their mental disorder.

· Despite the high incidence of depressive illness, it is a very treatable condition. In fact with appropriate treatment 80 – 90% of those who suffer from the illness can be effectively treated.

References:

1. Official Communication of the Council of Europe. Agence Europe, Brussels 29 May 1997.

2. American Foundation for Suicide Prevention website (http://www.afsp.org).

3. Charlton J, Kelly S, Dunnell K, Evans B, Jenkins R, Suicide deaths in England and Wales: trends in factors associated with suicide deaths. Population trends. 1993: 34-42.

4. Shaffer D, Gould MS, Fisher P e al. Psychiatric diagnosis in child and adolescent suicide. Arch Gen Psychiatry. 1996; 53: 339 – 348.

5. Martin P. Depressive Disorders and Public Health: A Review of the Economic Impact. Encephale 1996; 22 (5): 321-330.

6. Greenberg et al. Labour Productivity Effects of Prescribers Medicines for Chronically Ill Workers. Health Economics 1996; 5; 249-265.