Cases of suicide among young people are on the rise, which is alarming and a major cause of concern for society.
A lot of reports have been shared of students from some universities in the country ending their lives through suicide.
In August, a student at Great Zimbabwe University was found lying dead with a poisonous liquid in a bush, about 2 kilometers away from his home. It is believed that the young man killed himself after being dumped by his girlfriend.
In September, a student at Harare Polytechnic committed suicide after his girlfriend of four years eloped to another man. The deceased body was found hanging at his friend’s house in Highfield suburb. Battery acid, rat poison and a piece of rope were found next to his body.
These cases show that suicide is a big issue. According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), every year 703 000 people take their own life and there are many more people who attempt suicide.
Suicide occurs throughout the lifespan and was the fourth leading cause of death among 15-29 year-olds globally in 2019.
The latest available WHO data on suicide, for 2019, shows Zimbabwe has a crude suicide rate of 14, 1 deaths per 100 000 population.
Research indicates that certain events and circumstances may increase risk of suicides and these include previous suicide attempt(s), a history of suicide in the family, substance misuse, mood disorders (depression, bipolar disorder), access to lethal means (for example keeping firearms in the home), losses and other events (for example, the breakup of a relationship or a death, academic failure, legal difficulties, and bullying), history of trauma or abuse and exposure to the suicidal behavior of others.
While the link between suicide and mental disorders (in particular, depression and alcohol use disorders) is well established in many countries, experts say many suicides happen impulsively in moments of crisis with a breakdown in the ability to deal with life stresses, such as financial problems, relationship break-up or chronic pain and illness.
Suicidal thoughts, just like mental health conditions, can affect anyone, regardless of age, gender or race. Suicide affects not only the victim but also the victim’s family and friends. The thought of losing a loved one, coupled with the stigmatisation has a strong psychological effect.
The rise in suicide cases call for more action to be employed to help bring them to an end.
Mental health advocates say suicides are preventable. There are a number of measures that can be taken to prevent suicide and suicide attempts.
Speaking to Chronicle in an interview, Summit Care Trust, mental health advocate, Miss Tanatswa Chikaura said suicides are definitely preventable if strategies to curb them are put place. “We need to have conversations about suicide risk factors and identify what role each of us has to play in the society in order to curb them. We definitely need a national suicide prevention team that will focus on educating people on suicide risk factors and assisting the family members of those that would have lost people to suicide.
People need to know that it is fine to talk about what is distressing them and people who are stressed or depressed should not be ashamed to seek help. There is need to conscientise people facing challenges that they can share their situations with friends, family members or professionals for support. At Summit Care Trust we are having suicide prevention workshops in Harare where we educate young people on mental health and its risk factors,” said Miss Chikaura.
She added: “I also lead a youth platform called My State of Mind and we recently hosted a suicide prevention workshop, where viewers were given a suicide safety plan to protect their well-being. Moreover, we give mental health education. To prevent suicide, everyone has to be involved. Our conversations need to be honest and put into context.
Text book definitions will not take us far, we need to understand what mental health means in an African context. And in terms of mental health in an African context, we can’t ignore African traditionalists or religion because these areas are an important part of most Zimbabweans. We also cannot ignore totems or language when we contextualise mental health or mental health problems.”
According to one Muslim, Shack Bhalakazi suicides can be prevented if people monitor what they listen to, watch or hear.
“What we should realise is that our behaviour is informed by the things we consume, what we read, what we watch and what we listen to so if we are not careful about what we are consuming these are things which can lead people to commit suicide. In terms of parenting it seems our children are being molded by what they are consuming out there instead of what they should be taught in the family setup.
The religious fraternity now has a role to foster good parenting. In fact the parents themselves need a lot of education in as far as parenting is concerned and also there must be provisions where the children meet and are taught moral values because the absence of these is causing the social ills and our experiences and faith have a role to cleanse those ills,” he said.
In a report, WHO recommends key effective evidence-based interventions such as limiting access to the means of suicide for example pesticides, firearms and certain medications.
In addition WHO recommends governments and other stakeholders to foster socio-emotional life skills in adolescents and to early identify, assess, manage and follow up anyone who is affected by suicidal behaviours.
“These need to go hand-in-hand with the following foundational pillars: situation analysis, multisectoral collaboration, awareness raising, capacity building, financing, surveillance and monitoring and evaluation. Suicide prevention efforts also require coordination and collaboration among multiple sectors of society, including the health sector and other sectors such as education, labour, agriculture, business, justice, law, defence, politics, and the media. These efforts must be comprehensive and integrated as no single approach alone can make an impact on an issue as complex as suicide,” says the report.