A new private, nonprofit organization, Suicide Prevention International
(SPI), is working to increase collaboration among medical professionals to
examine effective approaches to suicide prevention and to develop and fund
suicide prevention projects in the United States and abroad.
Herbert Hendin, M.D., founded SPI earlier this year after spending 17 years
as president, executive director, and then medical director of the
Chicago-based American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. He is also a
professor in New York Medical College's Department of Psychiatry and
SPI is currently partnering with the World Health Organization (WHO) on a
project called the International Strategies for Suicide Prevention. In
addition to prevention strategies, the researchers and clinicians from 26
countries participating in the project will develop evaluation and
implementation measures to gauge projects' effectiveness.
The organization held a workshop in Hong Kong in November to discuss
reports on suicide-prevention initiatives prepared by work groups in 13 Asian
countries and to develop the basis for demonstration projects and policies SPI
plans to fund. A report on the workshop's findings is scheduled for
publication in spring 2007.
Hendin told Psychiatric News that suicide rates vary
demographically from one region to another and that it is important to
recognize potential socioeconomic and cultural triggers.
For example, WHO has collected statistics indicating that young women in
China and India are at a disproportionate risk for suicide because of
socioeconomic and cultural pressures, such as rural poverty and forced
marriages. In South Korea, the suicide rate among people over age 65 is
estimated to have risen from between 200 percent to 500 percent over the past
two decades. And in Europe, the suicide rate rises with age, is more closely
correlated with depression than it is in Asia, and is four times higher among
men than women.
Hendin noted that many countries do not provide assistance for people whose
lives have been affected by suicide.
"Although the United States has several hundred groups that provide
support for people who have lost loved ones to suicide, most Asian countries
don't have such groups, nor do they have support from government agencies to
address the issue," he said. "They rely on help from
nongovernmental organizations, but little assessment is conducted to examine
At WHO's request, SPI started the Support for Survivors of Suicide project.
Psychiatrists and mental health professionals from Asia come to the United
States to learn from their counterparts here how to develop and implement
support programs for children and family members after a loved one's
SPI's Physician Depression and Suicide Prevention Project is one of its two
U.S.-based projects. It is designed to encourage depressed physicians to seek
treatment before they become impaired. In addition, SPI has drawn on more than
a decade of findings from therapists of patients who killed themselves while
in treatment and, through its Suicide Data Bank Project, has developed an
Affective States Questionnaire to help identify patients who are at risk for
SPI receives support from major U.S. and European corporations that conduct
business in Asia, Asian corporations, private foundations, and individual
More information about SPI is posted at<www.SPI.org>.▪