Suicide Rates Rise in Malawi

Suicide cases in Malawi have spiked this year and a UK-based Malawian mental health research group and charity organisation, MentalCare, says it may be due to the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) restrictions.

MentalCare says people with mental health problems who are driven into isolation due to the ravaging global pandemic are at higher risks of committing suicide.

The organisation’s executive director, Gerald Namwaza-Banda, who spoke in a global World Mental Health Day virtual conference from the UK on October 10, said: “People with mental health problems are so vulnerable and at high risk to commit suicide when sent in isolation due to Coronavirus because it becomes a double jeopardy for them.

“They have to deal with two stinging stigmas at once. Having mental health problems is one of the biggest stigmas in the community one can face as people are judgemental; and now if you have tested positive for coronavirus or showing signs of the virus, people stay away from you.”

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World Mental Health Day is an international day for global mental health education, awareness and advocacy against social stigma.

Namwaza-Banda, a mental health specialist said it is dangerous to let people with mental health issues go into isolation due to Covid-19 because by having mental health problems they are already isolated from the normal world.

“While it is important to have everyone isolated when they have tested positive for coronavirus it is also important to consider people’s mental wellbeing. People with mental health problems must also be given an extra support because on their own they are prone to killing themselves,” said Namwaza-Banda.

The MentalCare boss appealed to Malawi government leadership to put in place measures that will protect people with mental health problems from harm and danger.

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“The government must ensure that people with mental health problems are well looked after. Anyone can have a mental health breakdown regardless of who they are or what they do,” he said.

“In Malawi, and perhaps in all African countries, people with mental health issues are oftentimes ridiculed and sidelined and sometimes branded as weed smokers.

“Sometimes people also believe that if someone has mental health problems then he must be bewitched by his or kinsfolk, which is competely wrong.”

World Health Organization (WHO) statistics show that 79% of all suicides happen in low- and middle-income countries.

The WHO recognises World Mental Health Day on 10th October every year.

This year’s theme set by the World Federation for Mental Health is ‘Mental Health for All.’

World Mental Health Day was first celebrated in 1992 at the initiative of the World Federation for Mental Health, a global mental health organization with members and contacts in more than 150 countries.

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This day, each October, millions of people across the globe come together to celebrate this annual awareness program to bring attention to mental illness and its major effects on peoples’ lives worldwide.


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