‘Suicide rates highest in Africa’

World Health Organisation (WHO) on Thursday launched a campaign to raise awareness and spur action for suicide prevention in the African region, which has the world’s highest rates of death by suicide.

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. 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.

The social media campaign, launched ahead of World Mental Health Day, 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.

Such efforts include equipping health workers to better support those dealing with suicidal thoughts, educating people who may experience these thoughts on where to go for help, as well as sensitising the public on how to identify and help those in need and to help tackle the stigma associated with suicide, epilepsy, mental health conditions and alcohol and drug abuse.

The African region is home to six of the 10 countries with the highest suicide rates worldwide. The common means of suicide in the region are hanging and pesticide self-poisoning, and to a lesser extent drowning, 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.

“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,” Dr Matshidiso Moeti, WHO Regional Director for Africa said.

“Significant investment must be made to tackle Africa’s growing burden of chronic diseases and non-infectious conditions such as mental disorders that can contribute to suicide.”Mental health problems account for up to 11 per cent of the risk factors associated with suicide.  -BBC

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