Namibia Suicide Statistics Worrisome

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By Irene !Hoaes

WINDHOEK

Most people would not want to die voluntary, yet more and more people especially young people are committing suicide in Namibia.

Namibia had the tenth highest suicide rate in the world in 2003, according to an independent research conducted by Dr Shaun Whittaker.

Lithuania has the highest suicide rate followed by Russia.

Dr Shaun Whittaker, a Clinical Psychologist is, however, certain that the suicide rate is still on the increase judging from police reports on the subject.

“In most cases, the suicidal increase is caused by the socio-economic situation in Namibia. Moreover Namibia is a very violent society coming from the militaristic colonial history of the country,” Whittaker added.

Reasons for most suicide cases are unemployment and alcohol abuse.

Interestingly, being single is also cited as one of the leading reasons.

Namibia is among the countries with the highest unemployment rate in the world with more than 36 percent and to top it all, only one third of Namibia’s workforce is in formal employment.

“I think we have a crisis and something should be done about it. There is definitely a link between unemployment and suicide.”

Whittaker says being single, widowed or divorced also has a definite link, as these groups do not have a close family system, no supporting partner and are in most cases divorced.

He revealed that suicide is increasingly committed while under the influence of alcohol, a time when most people have the courage to do things that they would not have done under normal circumstances.

Young males between the ages of 20 to 29, committed the majority of the suicides. The youngest suicide victim in the country was 11 years old, while the oldest person was 93 years old.

Twenty-seven percent of those committing suicide had a chronic physical illness such as cancer or HIV/Aids, 24 percent were former political detainees, 19 percent had a mental illness while 18 percent were Namibian soldiers.

Whittaker is, however, certain that suicide cases that are HIV/Aids-related have decreased due to the introduction of anti-retroviral drugs.

With regard to suicide cases among soldiers and ex-detainees, Whittaker is of the opinion that not much attention was given to the psychological healing or reintegration of ex-fighters into society after the war.

Some of the participants at the conference were also of the opinion that giving money to ex-Plan fighters is not the answer to the problems facing this group, as most of them are still traumatised by past events.

Ironically, women attempt to commit suicide more than men, but they are less successful.

“Males use more lethal methods like hanging or shooting. Females overdose on tablets or poison or cut their wrists. Males are more likely to die from suicide attempts,” Whittaker who was speaking at the three-day family conference in the capital, said.

Whittaker says it is important to educate people about early warning signs so that they can recognise them and save lives.

Early warning signs are highlighted as suicide threats, a prior attempt, loss of family member, pet, boyfriend or girlfriend through death, abandonment or break-up.

Other factors cited are family disruptions such as unemployment, serious illness, relocation, divorce, disturbance in sleeping, eating habits and personal hygiene.

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