Background. The objectives were to assess thoughts about suicide, plans to commit suicide and suicide attempts in the community, to investigate the use of health services following a suicide attempt, and to describe basic socio-cultural indices of the community.
Method. The community survey was one component of the larger WHO multisite intervention study on suicidal behaviours (SUPRE-MISS). In each site, it aimed at randomly selecting and interviewing at least 500 subjects of the general population living in the catchment area of the emergency department where the intervention component of the study was conducted. Communities of eight SUPRE-MISS sites (in Brazil, China, Estonia, India, Iran, South Africa, Sri Lanka, and Viet Nam) participated plus two additional sites from Australia and Sweden conducting similar surveys.
Results. Suicide attempts (0·4–4·2%), plans (1·1–15·6%), and ideation (2·6–25·4%) varied by a factor of 10–14 across sites, but remained mostly within the ranges of previously published data. Depending on the site, the ratios between attempts, plans, and thoughts of suicide differed substantially. Medical attention following a suicide attempt varied between 22% and 88% of the attempts.
Conclusions. The idea of the suicidal process as a continuous and smooth evolution from thoughts to plans and attempts of suicide needs to be further investigated as it seems to be dependent on the cultural setting. There are indications, that the burden of undetected attempted suicide is high in different cultures; an improved response from the health sector on how to identify and support these individuals is needed.