Background: Globally, suicide is an important cause of mortality. In low- and middle income settings, it is difficult to find unequivocal data to establish suicide rates. The objective of this review is to synthesize the reporting of suicide incidence in six south Asian countries.
Methods: We conducted a scoping review combining peer-reviewed studies (PubMed, PsycINFO, EMBASE) with in-country searches for grey literature in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, India, Nepal and Bangladesh. The review included mapping reported suicide rates, quality appraisals of the studies, use of definitions of suicide and means of committing suicide.
Results: In total, 114 studies and reports were included in the review, including 50 peer-reviewed publications. Reported suicide rates varied widely from 0.43/100,000 to 331.0/100,000. The average suicide rate across studies was found to be high compared to the world average, however many studies were of poor quality or not representative. The majority of studies failed to explicitly define suicide (84% of the published articles and 92% of the grey literature documents). Poisoning and hanging were consistently the most common methods of committing suicide on the sub-continent.
Conclusions: The reported suicide rates in South Asia are high compared to the global average, but there is a paucity of reliable data on suicide rates in South Asia. Reports are likely to diminish rather than exaggerate the magnitude of suicide rates. There is an urgent need to establish new, or evaluate existing, national suicide surveillance systems in the South Asian countries.