Suicides remain high
Namibians taking their own lives at shocking rate
14 September 2020 | Health
Close to 800 lives were snuffed out by suicide in Namibia over the 18 months.
New statistics shared by the Namibian police with Namibia Media Holdings reveal that in 2019, a total of 486 suicides took place in the country. Over the first seven months of 2020, from January to 31 July, the police recorded 266 suicides.
Men remain most at risk of suicide, with 409 dying by suicide in 2019, followed by 58 adult women. Eight male youths and 11 female youths under the age of 18-years also died by their own hand in 2019. Adult men accounted for 222 of the suicides between January and July this year, followed by 31 adult women, six male youths and seven female youths under the age of 18-years-old.
The Khomas region reported the highest suicides by July this year, totalling 48. In the Omasati region, 42 lives were felled by suicide, and 29 in the Otjozondjupa region. Last year, the highest number of suicides, 66, was reported in the Omusati region, followed by 62 in Ohangwena and 51 in Khomas.
In Namibia research has revealed that men of economically productive active age are most vulnerable to suicide, with the ministry of health confirming last week that available figures for January to June 2020 indicate that at least 435 persons attempted suicide.
A ministry of health study published two years ago reported that in 2015 an estimated 25 000 people were known to have attempted suicide that year alone in Namibia.
During a panel discussion on Global Suicide Prevention Day last week in Windhoek, social worker Jennifer Lifasi echoed more than a decade of warnings that Namibia faces a suicide crisis. “This pandemic of suicide is a worrisome issue.”
Namibia’s suicide rate remains one of the highest in Africa and globally.
A comprehensive study released by the health ministry two years ago found that based on available country statistics, Namibia is ranked fourth in Africa and 11th globally in terms of suicide rate per capita.
Iani de Kock, a clinical psychologist at Bel Esprit Clinic in Windhoek, said Namibia’s suicide rate is estimated to be double that of the global rate of 11 suicides per 100 000 population.
Speaking during the panel discussion on mental health and suicide prevention, she stressed this ranking is “quite significant, considering what a small country we are.”
De Kock warned that while studies have not yet been conclusive, experts caution that among the multiple social and economic repercussions of the Covid-19 pandemic, suicides could likely spike in the months and years to come.
In Namibia particularly, economic stress including unemployment are a key driver to suicidal behaviours. “There is a clear link between economic depression and an upswing in suicides, depression and mental health concerns in general,” clinical psychologist Dr Shaun Whittaker warned last year.
He said unemployment, financial stress and poverty can be devastating to mental health.
A man who identified himself only as Jaco from Khomasdal called into the public discussion hosted last week by the information ministry on suicide prevention with a message of encouragement and hope.
He said he tried to hang himself, which resulted in him being hospitalised and in a coma for three days. Following his attempted suicide, Jaco says the state offered counselling services and medicine and that he has mostly recovered from his ordeal and is feeling better and more hopeful.
“At end of the day, we need to understand it is a sickness, it’s not a thing you can ignore. You need to tell yourself ‘I am sick’, and you need to get help. Seek help. That is the first and most important thing.”
Jaco said that the long-term support he received from the state was key to his recovery from depression. “It’s a sickness, and as long as you don’t treat it, you won’t get past the stage of being suicidal.”