The World Health Organization said Thursday there is one suicide every 40 seconds, and urged governments to step up efforts to reduce the number of such deaths.
The 194 member states of the world health agency committed themselves last year to bringing down suicide numbers by 10 per cent by 2020.
However, only 28 countries currently have government programmes to deal with the issue.
“Unfortunately, suicide all too often fails to be prioritized as a major public health problem,” WHO Director General Margaret Chan said.
The countries with the highest suicide rates of at least 15 self-inflicted deaths per 100,000 inhabitants are mainly in South-East Asia, East Africa and Eastern Europe.
Japan, both Koreas, Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan, Guyana and Suriname also fall into that category.
While suicide rates are higher in developed countries than in developing ones, poorer countries account for three quarters of such deaths overall, because of their higher population numbers.
More people die by their own hand than through conflicts or famines, and suicides are the second-highest cause for deaths in the 15-29 age group.
Simple steps to reduce the number of such deaths include restricting access to pesticides, firearms and certain medicines, which are the most common means for committing suicide, WHO recommended.
It also advocated targeted strategies for groups that are especially vulnerable, including people affected by war or natural catastrophes, as well as refugees, migrants and homosexuals.
In addition, the UN agency said countries need to expand psychiatric health services, as well as palliative care for chronic patients.
National strategies must include not only health providers, but also schools, justice agencies, businesses and media, Chan said.