Do Your Share to Prevent Suicides

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By Surihe Gaomas WINDHOEK Today, Namibians are asked to come in big numbers to take part in a mass Community Awareness March Against Suicides in the capital. The event, which is jointly organized by the Ministry of Health and Social Welfare and Lifeline-Childline Namibia, falls in line with World Mental Health Day which was commemorated on Tuesday of last week under the theme: “Suicides and Mental Illnesses.” The crowd will be required to assemble at Tre-Supermarket from 9 o’clock this morning, and the march is set to start from there to the Windhoek City Council office and back to the Zoo Park. It is obvious from recent weekly police statistics that suicides among Namibians are a growing concern. It is even more worrying when it is said that most of the people who take their own lives by hanging or shooting sometimes leave suicide notes giving HIV and Aids as the reason for killing themselves. For instance, in Omusati alone in just one month 40 people killed themselves. Deputy Commissioner of Police in that region, Ndahangwapo Kashihakumwa, reported in a local daily recently that the 40-plus people decided to end their lives citing HIV/Aids as a primary cause. “Some of them are those who were affected by the new illness, saying they were tired of the bad treatment they received from their families and relatives. This is really a very serious situation facing Omusati Region, and something has to be done to stop it,” he said. Yet Clinical Psychologist, Dr Shaun Whittaker, believes that other social pressing problems like unemployment and poverty could also be contributing to this trend. By marching, organizers plan to create a momentum and drive the message home to people that “suicide is not a solution to a temporary problem,” which can be addressed or at least alleviated through communication. “Suicide is not a solution to any problem, be it a relationship problem or poverty or unemployment. Instead of taking your own life, you can talk about the problem with someone you trust to advise you,” said Dr Ndahambelela Mthoko, one of the organizers of the event from the Ministry of Health. Citing last year’s police suicide rates, Dr Mthoko states that the problem of suicides is a serious one in Namibia. Oshana clocked the highest with 95 suicide cases, representing 21 percent of all who died last year. Omusati came second with 57 people; Khomas Region had 68 people, representing 15 percent of those who died by suicide; and Ohangwena 65. The reason why the theme of suicides is linked with mental health this year is because they are closely intertwined with each other. “It appears that most people who commit suicide have some kind of mental illness like depression or schizophrenia. It is important to refer such people early to the hospital for medical treatment in order to prevent suicide cases,” said Dr Mthoko. Alcohol and drug-abuse are also a contributing factor to this situation. Dr Mthoko added that, while men generally take their own lives, women are now committing suicide as well. Although there are many mental disorders, there are currently many patients suffering from depression and schizophrenia at the Mental Health Care Centre near the Windhoek Central Hospital. Meanwhile, in an effort to sensitize the public more about suicides and mental illnesses, pamphlets and brochures will be handed out at the Zoo Park in town, including educational information sessions.