Zimbabwe total suicide rate goes up to 14.1%

Experts have called for a holistic approach in dealing with mental health issues at a time when the number of suicide cases is on the increase in the country.

By Abigirl Tembo

For Mrs Svorai Sibanda, 14 August was her worst nightmare as a parent.

That was the day her only child Desire Mungoma committed suicide after his girlfriend dumped him. He was only 22.

“He didn’t come home. I asked his friends and relatives on his whereabouts, but no one knew. Police advised us to go to hospitals. I was worried and then my husband received a call from Mabelreign Police Station. My son had drank poison and he was found dead in the fields. He was a quiet boy, but appeared happy, so it was a shock. Even now I am in shock,” said Mrs Sibanda.

So many regrets, so much pain for everyone left behind.

“Sometimes I wonder if I could have prevented this. Maybe if I had commented on one of his statuses when he put his girlfriend. Maybe I shouldn’t have said anything, I wish…”

According to public health experts, suicide must be treated as both a mental and a public health issue.

Itai Rusike, a public health expert says: “There is an evident need to expand the availability of a range of mental health services and capacities to manage the spectrum of disorders, stresses, anxieties and suicidal ideas affecting an increased number of people including the young ones as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic anxieties and stresses. We need to prioritise prevention of mental ill-health and investment to tackle drivers of mental stress.”

Community psychologist Noreen Wini-Dari says: “There are deeper links between suicide and mental health issues. As a society so many times we have turned a blind eye on mental health issues. We have decided to act like they don’t exist we have decided to ignore them. For example, we have people who treated suicide and it’s not uncommon to hear people saying ‘let him die, he has eaten enough sadza’. At that moment, maybe, a person is going through depression. Maybe it’s one last cry for help. So if someone comes forward with a problem try to be helpful let’s stop and take it seriously it’s a cry for help let’s take it seriously.”

Religious and traditional leaders acknowledge the worrying increase in suicide cases.

“As a church we have a role to play by working through our youth programmes so that we capacitate our children from a young age and we also teach them to be responsible in the way they deal with different life issues,” said Reverend Gurupira of the United Methodist Church.

“We need to retrace our footsteps and go back to our traditional ways so that we might find out what’s wrong with our society and how we can prevent the suicide scourge. Traditionally if a person commits suicide the body is not even supposed to be brought inside the house,” traditional healer Mbuya Diana Nziga said.

The latest available World Health Organisation data on suicide is quite revealing with Zimbabwe having a crude suicide rate of 14 deaths per 100 thousand people.

The male rate is at 20 percent while the rate is pegged at 8.8 percent for women.

This has left Zimbabwe ranked 34th on a list of 182 countries, and the fifth in Africa, behind Lesotho, Eswatini, South Africa and Botswana