COVID-19 worsening cases of suicide

TODAY, Zimbabwe joins the rest of the globe in commemorating World Suicide Prevention Day with reports that cases have been on the rise in different communities, a situation which has been worsened by COVID-19.

World Suicide Prevention Day is an awareness day observed on 10 September every year, in order to provide worldwide commitment and action to prevent suicides, with various activities around the world since 2003.

Suicide is the 19th cause of death in Zimbabwe and prevalence rate is one of the highest in the world.

According to a mental wellness organisation- Create Zim, in the last five years more men have resorted to suicide compared to women.

Defined as the act of intentionally causing one’s own death by ingesting pesticide, or using firearms; suicide is a result of mental disorders including depression, psychosis and substance use disorder.

The Zimbabwe Republic Police has also bemoaned the increase in residents who resort to taking their lives whenever faced by social and economic problems.

Of late even teenagers have been making headlines after committing suicide.

Local psychologist, Jacqueline Nkomo says lack of mental health services and the culture of silence need to be addressed to reduce the number of people who take their own lives.

“We need to reach out to our family members, friends colleagues and everyone around us and ensure they are mentally sound so they do not resort to suicide. Depression and loss of hope often triggers suicidal thoughts and because our mental health systems are weak, people succeed in taking their own lives, which is avoidable,” said Nkomo.

“The effects of COVID-19 have left thousands of people depressed, out of jobs and anxious about the future which may lead to hopelessness. I urge everyone to look out for any changes in mood, behavior and performance from their friends, family and loved ones so that we stop this scourge.”

Friendship Bench Coordinator, Chengetai Nyamukapa said the socio-economic
status is a contributor, issues of retrenchment and loss of jobs induced by COVID-19 could be fueling suicide.

“There is a prevalent gap in the mental health personnel work force in the country. Fear of the unknown, job security, examinations, family relations, fear of COVID-19 an unknown wave hitting the country, safety of loved ones, documentation letters to move about, the health not being able to deal with the pandemic as first world country health sectors have also been overwhelmed.

The thought that things are getting worse instead of better and the uncertainty can be overwhelming if people feel there is nothing more worth living for since things are bad,” said Nyamukapa.

Nyamukapa called for a National Strategy for Suicide Prevention, increased public awareness on suicide prevention and problem solving and coping skills.

Zibusiso Munandi from Abangane, a Bulawayo based mental health promotion organisation said many youths are suffering in silence with nowhere to turn to.

“Most people who consider suicide do not really want to die, they just do not know how to cope with or eliminate the pain they are going through. The first signs of a suicidal person is depression followed by isolation and eventually suicidal idealisation,” said Munandi.

“We hope that stakeholders and policy makers will rally behind creating a working mechanism to cater for the increasing number of people suffering depression, especially youths. We have been through a lot and COVID-19 worsened our stressors hence the need for more vibrant mental health programmes in Zimbabwe.”

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