WINDHOEK - In Namibia, 452 people took their own lives in 2017 and this year between April and July, the grim suicide toll was a shocking 131.
This sentiment was expressed by Dr Charles Sagoe-Moses, World Health Organisation (WHO) country representative during the public lecture on suicide prevention and the launch of the National Study on the Prevalence of and Interventions in relation to suicides held at the UN House last Thursday.
Moreover, statistics shared at the public lecture on suicide prevention coordinated by 2011 results of Namibia Statistics Agency (NSA), indicated that Namibia is rated 11th in the highest suicide rate in the world and fourth highest in Africa.
Furthermore, latest available data revealed that the suicide rate in Namibia is at 22.1 per 100 000 population, compared to 11.4 suicides per 100 000 population worldwide. Other countries with high suicide rates are Mozambique, Tanzania and Burundi respectively.
Sagoe-Moses, in his statement said comparing estimates for 2000 with those of 2012, there was an increase of 38 percent in suicide rate in the African region.
He noted that suicide rates are particularly high among the elderly people but there is also a peak among the young. Stating that, “suicide by intentional pesticide ingestion is among the most common method of suicide globally and a particular concern in rural agricultural areas in the African region”.
More so, he said, the link between suicide and mental health was established, stating that depression, psychosis and substance abuse are contributing factors to suicide. He concurred that suicide behaviours may be an early warning that someone may be developing a mental illness. Therefore, he said, assessment and counselling is paramount for survivors of suicide.
“With counselling, social support, time and medical intervention many of those who have attempted suicide or who have seriously thought about killing themselves will go on to live full and productive lives,” said Sagoes-Moses.
However, he is worried to observe the limited investment in mental health programmes and the limited pool of expertise in this regard. He cited that the global median mental health expenditure per capita is US$2.5, based on the WHO Global Health Expenditure database, citing the global median of domestic general government health expenditure per capita in 2015 was US$141, thus making government mental health expenditure less than two percent of global median of government health expenditure. Equally, the median number of mental health workers is nine per 100 000 population, with extreme variation from below one in low-income countries to 72 in high income countries.
To this end, he is optimistic suicide is preventable with timely, evidence based and often low-cost interventions despite being considered a serious public health problem. Therefore, he urged the need for comprehensive multi-sectoral suicide prevention strategy.
In the same vein, he declared that WHO is committed to support the government in drafting a second National Suicide Prevention Strategy with an action plan. “Hopefully the strategy will pave a way for policy and legislative environment that ensures increased investment in the field, strengthen multi-sectoral collaboration and increased community engagement,” he concluded.