By CHRISTINE KUNDA –
SUICIDE is a serious public health problem that continues to affect people.
The problem needs urgent prevention strategies to save thousands of those who fall victim around the world.
According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), more than 700,000 people commit suicide while many more attempt to kill themselves annually.
Apart from Non-Communicable Diseases (NDCs), suicide remains the third leading cause of death among teenagers and youth.
Recently, former Miss United States of America (USA) 2019 Cheslie Kryst allegedly committed suicide by jumping off the roof of her apartment in New York City.
Kryst, 30, took home the crown in the Miss USA pageant as Miss North Carolina in 2019.
She used her influence as Miss USA to speak about criminal justice reform.
In Zambia, a number of suicide cases have come on the heels of the release of 2022 Grade 12 results by Ministry of Education.
One leaner, whose name has been withheld, committed suicide for obtaining poor results in the examinations.
The two additional incidents were also subject of the outpouring of grief on social media.
One may wonder whether these suicides could be associated with gender or age.
What could be the reasons that may push someone to reach the extremesm, to the point of committing suicide, and what are some of the preventive measures that society could put in place?
Medical experts have described mental health as being cardinal in life right from childhood.
It includes one’s emotional, psychological and social well being and affects how one thinks, feels and acts.
University Teaching Hospitals (UTH) Psychiatrist Dalal Naneem says the increase in suicide cases among young people indicates a public health crisis that needs to be addressed.
He says most young people experience what he described as emotional storms when they receive sudden bad news and often need time to process such information.
Dr Naneem explains that young people resort to suicide because they feel the need to punish themselves by releasing tension instantly when they are overwhelmed.
“From a psychiatric perspective, people who commit suicide do not really want to die. They might be experiencing an emotional storm because of the sudden bad news and they need time to process the information and in that time when they act, they commit self harm as a way to express themselves,” he said.
Dr Naneem said mental health problems can have a wide range of causes.
It is likely that for some people, there is a complicated combination of factors – although different people may be more deeply affected by certain things than others.
For example, childhood abuse, trauma or neglect, social isolation or loneliness, experiencing discrimination and stigma, social disadvantage, poverty, debt or bereavement, like losing someone close to you, as well as severe or long term stress.
Others may include having a long term physical health condition, unemployment or losing a job and homelessness or poor housing.
Additional factors may include drug and alcohol misuse, domestic violence, bullying or other abuse as an adult.
Mental health equally assists individuals to determine how to handle stress and relate to others.
Chainama Hospital Psychiatrist Francisca Bwalya called on members of the public to show support to young people and create an environment in which they can open up about their struggles.
“Let us show support to the young ones so that they can open up about their struggles instead of harming themselves,” she said.
Professional Counseling Training Director Francis Matanda said mental health may affect the emotional, psychological and social well being.
Mr Matanda, who is also a mental psychologist, drug and alcohol therapist, said biological factors, such as genes or brain chemistry, life experiences, such as trauma or abuse, family history of mental health problems are among causes of mental health factors that could lead to suicide.
Mental health problems are ordinary, but help is also available.
People with mental health problems can get better by seeking psychotherapy counseling.
“No one needs to take their lives because help is available at health facilities like Chainama Hills Hosptal,” Mr Matanda said.
People need to be counselled on how to resolve conflict and also the best way to discipline children.
Mr Matanda urged individuals who might be feeling like committing suicide to open up to people they trust or seek professional help before succumbing to such plans.
He appealed to society not to condemn people who attempt or commit suicide, but instead offer counsel to those that can still be given hope of holding on to their lives.
WHO says suicide is the second leading cause of death among adolescent girls as well as people aged between 15 to 29 years in Zambia.
The organisation describes mental health as a state of well being in which an individual realizes his or her own abilities, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively, and is able to make a contribution to his or her community.
The organisation further notes that mental health is more than just the absence of mental disorders or disabilities.
It says preserving and restoring mental health is crucial to an individual as well as throughout different communities and societies the world over.
In the WHO Mental Health Action Plan 2013–2030, WHO member states have committed themselves to working towards the global target of reducing the suicide rate by one third by 2030.
Psychotherapy healthcare services are vital in ensuring that people open up to struggles they experience, which in turn would help individuals understand that they can do something to improve their situation.
It is incumbent on families and healthcare staff in communities to be alert and deal with mental problems associated with stress and despair before they reach a crisis point.
Many times, negligent onlookers help to exacerbate mental problems soon after victims fall prey to trauma, for instance.
In high density areas, for instance, Ward Development Committee (WDCs) should be well placed to play a leading role in this aspect.
It is these localities that seem fraught with conditions associated with stress and helplessness.
Therefore, local communities and and healthcare institutions should be in the forefront to forestall the escalating cases of suicides to ensure that the communities socially stable for all.