By: Hilma Tuukondjele
Namibia’s suicide rates have increased by 100 since last year, indicating that the country continues to grapple with the mental health crisis that has seen 679 people take their lives between January 2021 and May 2022.
In comparison to last year, between April 2020 and April 2021, 565 people in Namibia took their lives.
Of the latest figure of 679 suicide deaths, 559 are male adults, while 91 are female adults. During the same period, 18 male juveniles and 11 female juveniles died by suicide.
Deputy health minister Esther Muinjangue revealed that Omusati has the highest recorded (105) incidents of suicide, with Ohangwena (100) in the second position. Khomas region comes in third with 80 cases, while Oshikoto is in fourth place with 65 incidents.
In the sixth position is Oshana with 56 cases, followed by Otjozondjupa in seventh place with 48 cases. Erongo region was placed in the eighth position with 44 incidents, while Kavango East is in the ninth place with a record of 34 incidents, but in the tenth position is Kavango West with 30 cases. //Kharas region is in 10th place with 29 incidents, followed by the Hardap region in the eleventh position with 25 cases. In the 12th place, there are 24 incidents recorded by the Zambezi region. The thirteenth position is Omaheke with 20 incidents, and the last position is for Kunene with 19 cases.
Clinical psychologist Dr Shawn Whittaker said the number of suicide are increasing, considering the fact of going through Covid-19 where a lot lost loved ones and their jobs.
“It has been a difficult situation throughout the past three years, and for that reason alone, you can say suicide is increasing,” he says.
He argued that more men take their lives than women because they are never attached to emotions, such as crying, so they attempt to kill themselves.
“Men use more lethal methods like hanging or killing themselves. They use very violent methods while women either cut their wrists or overdose and sometimes survive. That is why they do not survive suicide,” he said.
Shawn added that there are short and long-term solutions to prevent suicide. In the short term, “they need to have a suicide prevention Centre to continue to raise awareness around suicide, to have a workshop and psycho-educational awareness around suicide and on a long term they need to overcome unemployment, speak to them about male gender role.”
Activist Linda Baumann said that suicide is a big issue and the statistics navigate the importance of mental health, and it is not given a lot of attention in the country.
“Depression is one of the elements that contribute to suicide, and we as a country have a minimal support system that advances mental health and well-being. We also have minimal comprehensive services that address the issues of mental health and wellness,” she said.
She suggested that the country establishes youth development programs because the legal framework needs to be strengthened so that the services can be decentralised to all Namibians around the country.
“We need public awareness, campaigns that are able to raise consciousness and realities around what suicide means and the importance of people being directed to call lifeline and talk anonymously with someone who is able to listen to them,” she added.
She said that the situation is worsening with the figures that came out.
The suicide rates national research, a study conducted by the health ministry in 2018, shows that Namibia has one of the highest suicide rates in the world, ranked fourth highest in Africa, after Mozambique, Tanzania, and Burundi.
The study further indicated the triggers for suicide attempts as romantic relationship or marriage break-ups, followed by family problems, financial crises, the death of a loved one, and physical or verbal abuse by a spouse or partner. Therefore, there is a need to carry out more research on suicide in Namibia.
According to Muinjangue, there has also been an increase in cases of suicide or attempted suicide pacts.
A suicide pact is an agreement between two or more people to take their lives together, such as the incident in Swakopmund this year, in which a South African and British couple were discovered dead in their home in an apparent suicide pact.
“This is a grave concern for Namibia when we begin to lose two people at a time. That is why the country needs immediate public information and education on national disaster or emergency preparedness, response, prevention and mitigation,” she said.
People are using hanging (most used), shooting (second most used), battery water, drowning, cutting throat or neck, stabbing, poisoning, and burning, methods to take their lives, according to the information from the police.
At the same event, Tuhafeni Talia, the chairperson of the Khomas suicide prevention taskforce(KSPT), said that they would continue to give psychosocial support to their clients with suicidal behaviour as well as their families. They will also provide bereavement counselling to people who lost their loved ones through suicide.
She also said the task force, which was established last year, will be going to schools to raise awareness.