40 Seconds of Action for World Suicide Prevention Day


Suicide is the second leading cause of death among 15-29-year-olds, and one person dies every 40 seconds because of it. This tragedy is preventable with the right education and awareness.

Every year on September 10, we are reminded of the mental health epidemic that is occurring in the United States and across the world because of World Suicide Prevention Day. Mental health organizations are continuing to urge people to learn about the warning signs of depression and the ways we can help prevent more deaths from suicide.

In an effort to increase awareness about suicide and the roles individuals play in preventing these deaths, the World Health Organization (WHO) today launched a "40 seconds of action" campaign.1 The campaign encourages people to take “40 seconds of action” to reduce the stigma associated with suicide and to improve the knowledge of what can be done to prevent suicide. For example, they recommend someone who is struggling to start a 40 second conversation with someone they trust about how they are feeling.1

Suicide awareness and prevention is a task that more pharmacists are including with their patient care services. Suicide is the second leading cause of death among people age 15-29 years, and 1 person dies every 40 seconds because of it.1 These deaths may be preventable with the right education and awareness.

In 2016, Washington became the first state to require pharmacists to complete suicide awareness and prevention training to address the public health issue. As a result, a program implemented at Washington State University (WSU) College of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Studies is training student pharmacists to recognize patients in need of suicide intervention and to help save lives.2

According to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, there is no single cause for suicide, but there are many warning signs and risk factors that are associated with the mental health issue. Some warning signs include:

  • A person talking about killing themselves, feeling trapped, being a burden to others, having no reason to live, or feeling hopeless.
  • Behavior such as increased use of alcohol or drugs, oversleeping or not sleeping much, giving away prized possessions, aggression, isolating from family and friends, and withdrawing from activities.
  • Displaying moods of depression, anxiety, loss of interest, agitation/anger, relief/sudden improvement, irritability, and/or humiliation/shame.3

The risk factors that can increase the chance of a person taking their own life include:

  • A pre-existing mental health condition, such as bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, anxiety disorders, depression, or a traumatic brain injury.
  • Going through stressful life events, including rejection, divorce, or a financial crisis.
  • Prolonged stress from harassment, bullying, relationship problems, or unemployment.
  • Exposure to another person’s suicide or graphic accounts of suicide.
  • A family history of suicide.
  • Childhood abuse, neglect, or trauma. 3

The National Council for Suicide Prevention has also been encouraging others to take action by being a part of their Take 5 campaign. They suggest taking these 5 steps to save lives: Learning the Signs, Know How to Help, Practice Self-Care, Reach Out, and Spread the Word. After reading through these steps, they encourage sharing the campaign with others to continue to make an impact across the world.4


  • World suicide prevention day. World Health Organization. https://www.who.int/news-room/events/detail/2019/09/10/default-calendar/world-suicide-prevention-day-(wspd). Published September 10, 2019. Accessed September 10, 2019.
  • Coppock K. Program Offers Training in Suicide Awareness and Prevention. Pharmacy Times website. https://www.pharmacytimes.com/conferences/aacp-2019/program-offers-training-in-suicide-awareness-and-prevention/. Published July 18, 2019. Accessed September 10, 2019.
  • Risk factors and warning signs. American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. https://afsp.org/about-suicide/risk-factors-and-warning-signs/. Published 2019. Accessed September 10, 2019.
  • Take 5 steps. Take 5 To Save Lives. https://www.take5tosavelives.org/take-5-steps. Published 2019. Accessed September 10, 2019.

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