…the suicide rate in Sri Lanka has dropped significantly. So, from 57 deaths per 100,000 population in ’95, it has dropped now to 17. This is a 70% reduction. So, it’s a very significant success, in fact the greatest decrease in suicide rate ever seen.
Dr Leah Utyasheva
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How people kill themselves varies enormously depending on what means are most easily available. In the United States, half of suicides are by firearm. In Hong Kong, where most people live in high rise buildings, half of suicides are by jumping from a height. And in some countries in Asia and Africa with large poor agricultural communities, the main method is drinking pesticide.
There’s a good chance you’ve never heard of this issue before. And yet, of the 800,000 people who kill themselves globally each year – a staggering 20% die of pesticide self-poisoning.
The approach is shockingly lethal. When Europeans attempt to overdose on pills, the fatality rate is less than 1%. But for those with easy access to toxic pesticides the fatality rate is 40% to 70%.
Given that research suggests most people who try to kill themselves with pesticides reflect on the decision for less than 30 minutes – and that less than 10% of those who make an unsuccessful attempt will go on to try again – access to such sudden and lethal means of suicide is an enormous problem. And not only for the direct victims, but the partners and children they leave behind as well.
Fortunately researchers like Dr Leah Utyasheva have figured out a very cheap way to massively reduce pesticide suicide rates.
In 2016, Leah co-founded the first organisation focused on this problem – The Centre for Pesticide Suicide Prevention – which recently received an incubation grant from GiveWell. She’s a human rights expert and law reform specialist, and has participated in drafting legal aid, human rights, gender equality, and anti-discrimination legislation in various countries across Europe and Canada.