Suicide is the act of deliberately killing oneself. The act ranges from having simple thoughts of ending one’s life to suicide attempts and eventually the actual act of ending one’s life. Suicide is the fourth leading cause of death among 15–19 years old.
It is a leading cause of mortality particularly among adolescents and young adults, coming second to road traffic accidents. Globally it is estimated that at least every 40 seconds someone dies of suicide. Those that commit suicide are a small proportion among many those with unsuccessful attempts and even more afflicted by suicidal thoughts.
How big is the problem in Malawi?
The rate of suicide has been on the rise in Malawi for the past few years. In the first half of 2023, Malawi registered 256 cases of suicide, as compared to 135 people who committed suicide during a similar period in 2022, representing a 100 percent rise in the number of cases. Majority (226) of these were males.
Who is at risk?
People with mental illnesses such as severe depression, substance abuse disorders, and psychotic disorders are at a greater risk of suicide attempts. Being diagnosed with chronic diseases such as HIV, Cancer, or neurological conditions is also closely linked with suicide.
However, there is a high rate of suicide committed impulsively due to emerging life issues such as relationship breakdown between family members or companions and financial crisis. Being male is associated with a higher risk of completing suicide, while being female is associated with a higher rate of suicide attempts.
Is suicide Preventable?
Suicide is preventable. Preventing at societal level includes should target individuals, families, and communities. Learning warning signs, promoting prevention and resilience, and a committing to social change are all good strategies. Strategies should strengthen economic support, creating protective environments, improving access to and delivery of suicidal care, teaching coping and problem-solving skills, and timely identifying those at risk for support. Strengthening laws that limit exposure to harmful behaviours such as gambling, cannabis abuse, and use of hard drugs is important.
Why should one worry about suicide?
Suicide has far-reaching individual and community impacts. Suicide and suicide attempts worsen emotional, physical, and economic traumas of friends, loved ones, co-workers, and the community.
Surviving family and friends may experience prolonged grief, shock, anger, guilt, symptoms of depression or anxiety, and even thoughts of suicide themselves.
Need help? Or know someone who does?
Life problems are a common experience around the world. But a problem shared is half solved. It is always important to talk to someone when one is feeling like they can’t take any more. One can connect with their family members, church members, pastors, or a social counselor. Where available, hotline or online mental health counselors can be utilized to find some relief and advice.
Source: Malawi Health Weekly, https://malawihealthweekly.com/