At least 182 people have committed suicide in the past eight months, translating to an average of 23 deaths every month, a trend which has shocked the police and an expert.
Figures from National Police Headquarters show that between January and August this year, the police recorded 182 suicide cases compared to 116 cases during the same period last year, representing a 57 percent increase.
The new figure covering the eight months this year is only six cases less than what was captured for the whole of 2019 when 188 cases were reported. This means 370 people have killed themselves from January 2019 to August 2020, with males constituting over 85 percent of cases, according to police.
Deputy national police spokesperson Peter Kalaya said family disputes—including financial stress and marital problems—are the leading causes of suicide in the country.
Occupational therapist Patience Chimwaza, who runs a rehabilitation centre called Medical Plus in Lilongwe, in an interview said the increase in suicide cases is due to lack of easy access to psychosocial services which leads to many people suffering from depression without help.
He said : “Most cases that I handle are from urban areas and usually it is unresolved issues relating to finances. When people’s finances cannot afford the pressure of life, some think suicide is the solution.”
Chimwaza appealed to government to establish centres within public health facilities that would provide therapy.
“Not everyone can have access to private facilities or therapists. The Social Welfare Department ought to come in and strengthen psychosocial support systems,” he said.
On his part, Kalaya said the police has victim support units in most police formations nationwide which provide psychosocial support.
He said: “We also continue to intensify awareness campaigns through various means and community engagements in which we tell people to always find better ways of solving their problems other than taking their own lives. The Victim Support Unit has well-trained personnel who specialise in helping people with problems.”
Last November, St. John of God issued a report which also revealed that suicide cases were on the increase in Malawi. The report further indicated that over 80 percent of cases involved males.
The St John of God report showed that the most prevalent way of committing suicide in the country was hanging/strangulation/suffocation (57 percent) and use of poison (30 percent), with the age group 15-40 years being the most affected.
The report also cited lack of psychosocial therapists and interventions in Malawi as some of the reasons for increasing suicide cases.
In an earlier interview, University of Malawi’s College of Medicine clinical psychologist and associate professor Chiwoza Bandawe said it is not surprising that younger people committed suicide more than others due to pressures of life.
“Most people do not want to die, but they want to stop the pain and they do not know how else to stop it, and the only way to stop the emotional pain is to take away their lives,” said Bandawe in the interview where he further expressed the need to strengthen mental health interventions to deal with depression.
Government’s Department of Social Welfare was yet to respond to our questionnaire submitted last week on their interventions on suicide.