Cover Image
close this bookPreventing Suicide: How to Start a Survivors Group (WHO, 2000, 50 p.)
View the document(introduction...)
View the documentForeword
View the documentThe importance of self-help support groups
View the documentSurviving a suicide
View the documentImpact of suicide
View the documentSources of help for the bereaved
View the documentHow to initiate a self-help support group for survivors of suicide
View the documentDeveloping the operational framework for the group
View the documentIdentifying and gaining access to resources to support the group
View the documentGauging success
View the documentPotential risk factors for the group
View the documentSurvivor support in developing countries and rural areas
View the documentSurvivor support through “involvement therapy” in other activities
View the documentBack cover


Suicide is a complex phenomenon that has attracted the attention of philosophers, theologians, physicians, sociologists and artists over the centuries; according to the French philosopher Albert Camus, in The Myth of Sisyphus, it is the only serious philosophical problem.

As a serious public health problem it demands our attention, but its prevention and control, unfortunately, are no easy task. State-of-the-art research indicates that the prevention of suicide, while feasible, involves a whole series of activities, ranging from the provision of the best possible conditions for bringing up our children and youth, through the effective treatment of mental disorders, to the environmental control of risk factors. Appropriate dissemination of information and awareness-raising are essential elements in the success of suicide prevention programmes.

In 1999 WHO launched SUPRE, its worldwide initiative for the prevention of suicide. This booklet is one of a series of resources prepared as part of SUPRE and addressed to specific social and professional groups that are particularly relevant to the prevention of suicide. It represents a link in a long and diversified chain involving a wide range of people and groups, including health professionals, educators, social agencies, governments, legislators, social communicators, law enforcers, families and communities.

We are particularly indebted to Ms Raylee Taylor, “Survivors after Suicide”, The Salvation Army, Gold Coast, Australia, and Mr Jerry Weyrauch and Mrs Elsie Weyrauch, Suicide Prevention Advocacy Network (SPAN) USA, all of them survivors of suicide, who produced earlier versions of this booklet. The text was subsequently reviewed by the following members of the WHO International Network for Suicide Prevention, to whom we are grateful:

Dr vind Ekeberg, UllevHospital, University of Oslo, Oslo, Norway

Professor Jouko List, National Public Health Institute, Helsinki, Finland

Professor Lourens Schlebusch, University of Natal, Durban, South Africa

Dr Airi Vik, Tartu University, Tallinn, Estonia

Dr Richard Ramsay, University of Calgary, Calgary, Canada.

We also wish to thank the following survivors of suicide for their inputs:

Mr William T. Glover, Founding Member, Georgia Youth Suicide Prevention Coalition, Atlanta, GA, USA

Ms Sandy Martin, President, Georgia Youth Suicide Prevention Coalition, founder of the Lifekeeper Memory Quilt Project, Tucker, GA, USA

Mr Scott Simpson, Founder, Washington State Youth Suicide Prevention Committee, Edmonds, WA, USA.

The resources are now being widely disseminated, in the hope that they will be translated and adapted to local conditions - a prerequisite for their effectiveness. Comments and requests for permission to translate and adapt them will be welcome.

Dr J.M. Bertolote
Coordinator, Mental and Behavioural Disorders
Department of Mental Health
World Health Organization