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World Suicide Prevention Day 2017: The rise of suicide in Africa

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The talk of suicide is often avoided in conversations, pushed out as a taboo subject. But to those individuals who are questioning the value of their own lives, opening up a discussion about suicide could be what they need.

World Suicide Prevention Day (WSPD), a calendar-date set to raise awareness on the issue of suicide, encourages those who are struggling with their feelings to open up to close-friends and experts on their own stories – however personal they may seem.

Every year, over 800,000 people commit suicide and up to 25 times as many make suicide attempts – a statistic that WSPD is keen to open a discussion about and to reduce.

Age-standardised suicide rates across the globe, 2015. Courtesy: W.H.O





Suicide in Africa

The above figure, according to the World Health Organisation, is rising globally – but there have been rough reports from various countries in Africa that the continent alone is seeing an increase in deaths by suicide.

In South Africa, a research project at the Nelson Mandela School of Medicine indicated that suicide is on the rise in the country and that children as young as 10 are committing suicide.

“Our youth are increasingly attempting or committing suicide as a result of depression,” said Michelle de Sousa, Project Manager of the South African Depression and Anxiety Group (SADAG).

A number of suicide cases in Kampala, Uganda in 2014 brought attention to the rate of suicide deaths in the country – and the World Health Organisation ranked the country as 17th in the world, with just under 19 per 100,000 deaths being due to suicide in Uganda.

Another report by Deutsche Welle claimed that suicides were on the rise in Nigeria due to economic hardship in 2016.

Although suicide data on the continent is extremely scarce, these various reports alone force the idea that suicide in Africa, and the attitudes towards it, need to be talked about.





A recent suicide in a rural part of Nigeria, where a man who sold local wine and cigarettes in his community killed himself, was attributed to the country’s economic situation. Image courtesy: DW

Why Suicide?

Myriad factors can contribute to a person wanting to commit suicide, from feeling alienated in society to encountering a life-altering crisis, everyday individuals are exposed to these factors that make them vulnerable to suicide.

Psychology Today highlight severe depression as one of the major warning signs of suicide. They also list psychotic behaviours, and even link suicide to addiction – such as alcohol or drugs.

In Africa, factors like instability and dire situation are attributed to suicide.

A recent suicide in a rural part of Nigeria, where a man who sold local wine and cigarettes in his community killed himself, was attributed to the country’s economic situation.






“Because things are difficult in Nigeria today. No job, no money, nothing. Nigeria has turned upside down and everybody is a beggar,” a resident of the village said in response to why this man killed himself.

It is tragic stories like these that are the beating drum behind why initiatives like WSPD first started, and also represent the challenges they face in trying to curb the number of incidents.

World Suicide Prevention Day 2017

With the theme of: “Take a minute, change a life,” WSPD 2017 is marking the 15th World Suicide Prevention Day.

First recognised in 2003, as an initiative of the International Association for Suicide Prevention and endorsed by the World Health Organisation, WSPD takes place each year on September 10.

On this day, many people from around the world will be joining in sharing their knowledge to work towards the common goal of preventing suicide – and there are many different activities happening all over, from “Cycle Around the Globe” to local fundraising events. All with the concept of opening up the discussion on suicide.


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