Surge in suicide cases: the matrix between suicide, mental health and drug abuse

By Phillipa Jaja

A 32-YEAR-OLD man from Gweru jumped to his death from a 24-meter-high Gweru City Council water reservoir for unknown reasons last week on Thursday.

Trevor Bhebhe of Mkoba 14 suburb in Gweru’s body was found at the bottom of the water reservoir with a deformed head and broken legs.

Unpleasant as the details maybe, Trevor’s death is one of the many suicide cases that is plaguing the country.

Suicide by hanging, ingesting pesticides, throwing oneself from tall buildings and cutting oneself with sharp objects are all suicide methods people have been known to resort to ending their life.

Insurmountable economic hardships, relationship failures and gender based violence are some of the reasons that have been given for the soar in the statistics of people taking their lives.

 Zimbabwe Republic Police last year revealed that said one suicide too many had been reported in the country within a few days.

World Health Organisation (WHO) data published in 2020 showed that suicide deaths in Zimbabwe reached 2,069 or 1.91% of total deaths.

The age adjusted Death Rate is 23.63 per 100,000 of population ranks with Zimbabwe at number 7 in the world.

Such statistics point to a futile fight in the fight against suicide.

Mental health is at the basis of most suicide cases.

The lamentable issue is that society is wary of mental health services to the extent of disproving their effectiveness in combating suicide.

A research titled “Knowledge, attitudes, and uptake of mental health services (MHS) by secondary school students in Gweru, Zimbabwe,” by Zimbabwean and South African researchers establishes this.

The findings revealed that participants not only professed Ignorance/lack of awareness but were misinformed leading them to adopt negative attitude towards MHS resulting in not appreciating mental health services in general.

Such misinformation makes it difficult for people to be aware of mental health conditions bound to end their lives through suicide.

Nemache Mawere, the acting chief executive of Ingutsheni Central Hospital was last year quoted by a foreign publication asserting that:

“Few people are on treatment for depression and lack of mental awareness results in fewer clients on treatment, and few health workers understand mental health issues.”

The great trek to greener pastures by most health professionals has unfortunately left many health patients in the latch.

Perhaps the most worrying trend about suicide is its ability to claim the country’s future as evidenced by the rising number of professionals and students committing the act.

Male tertiary students, teachers and teenagers all form the demography of the sickening trend claiming many lives in its wake.

A global phenomenon, a British Journal of Psychiatry concurs that at least 7 percent of children have attempted suicide by the age of 17 and almost one in four say they have self-harmed in the past year.

Suicide is robbing the country of its valuable assets as a result of mental health conditions which many have attributed to drugs.

Statistics compiled in 2021 by the Zimbabwe Civil Liberties and Drug Network revealed that 60 per cent of psychiatric admissions were due to drug abuse.

Therefore reducing suicide cases needs for one to address the issue of drug abuse which not only destroys lives but has negative health impacts.

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