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Thursday, December 8, 2022

Suicide in Africa at an alarming rate

According to the Health Organization (WHO), around 11 people per 100 000 per year die by suicide in the African region, higher than the global average of nine per 100 000 people.

The organisation today launched a campaign to raise and call for action for suicide prevention in the African region, which has the world’s highest rate of death by suicide.

“This is due in part to insufficient action to address and prevent the risk factors, including mental health conditions which currently affect 116 million people, up from 53 million in 1990,” said the WHO.

Launched ahead of Mental Health Day, the social media campaign aims to reach 10 million people across the region to raise public awareness and galvanise the support of governments and policymakers to increase focus and funding for mental health programming, including suicide prevention efforts.

According to the WHO, the African region is home to six of the ten countries with the highest suicide rates worldwide. The most common means of suicide in the region are hanging and pesticide self-poisoning and, to a lesser extent, drowning, the use of a firearm, jumping from a height or medication overdose. Studies show that in Africa, for each completed suicide, there are an estimated 20 attempted ones.

WHO Regional Director for Africa, Dr Matshidiso Moeti, said that suicide is a major public health problem and every death by suicide is a tragedy.

“Unfortunately, suicide prevention is rarely a priority in national health programmes,” said Moeti.

She highlighted that mental health workers are mostly in urban areas, with primary and community health facilities having very few, if any.

“Mental health is integral to wholesome health and well-being, yet far too many people in our region who need help for mental health conditions do not receive it. It’s time for radical change. Ongoing efforts by countries should be reinforced and broadened to make mental health care a public health priority in the African region.” added Moeti.

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