As scary as death is, 128 people have committed suicide in the last nine months in the country—translating into one death every two days—a Nation on Sunday analysis has established.
These latest figures have alarmed both the police and experts— calling for psycho-social interventions to handle depression—identified as a lead cause of suicide.
Data from National Police headquarters, which we have sourced and analysed, show that from last September to June this year 133 suicide cases were recorded across the country, with five cases being that of attempted suicides.
While the police could not immediately provide the suicide rate of the same period last year, National Police spokesperson James Kadadzera was of the view that suicide cases could be on the increase.
Of the 133 cases recorded, only five involved women, translating into 3.8 percent of the total.
The Central Region recorded the highest number of people committing suicide at 70 (53 percent).
Surprisingly, the North, which is by far smaller in population than South, has a higher figure of 42 (32 percent), while the more populated South recorded 21 (16 percent).
Lilongwe and Mzimba had a combined 35 percent of the total at 25 and 22 cases respectively.
When engaged to explain these dynamics, Dr. Chiwoza Bandawe, a psychologist with the College of Medicine, said the difference in numbers based on region is interesting, and it is an issue which require research to establish what influenced people to kill themselves.
He, however, said men were more likely to commit suicide because of a culture of silence compared to women who are more expressive when they have issues.
“If you look at emotional management and expression you find that men struggle more than women. Culturally, women are allowed to cry, to express themselves but the ‘mwamuna salira’ (a man ought to be courageous) mentality is what contributes to more men than women committing suicide,” explained Chiwoza, who added that this was a global phenomenon.
Our analysis also shows that the most vulnerable age ranged between 15 to 40, as it constituted about 59 percent of the cases.
According to Bandawe, this is not unique to Malawi, as global figures also suggest that the youth are more likely to commit suicide because of pressures of life. He said this is a time most people suffer identity crisis which impact on their social well-being.
“The older you get, the more you are able to navigate and handle the situation of life. The other reason is that there is more peer pressure in this age-group. When you cannot handle this pressure of life, the only option is suicide.
“Most people do not want to die. That is the interesting thing about suicide, but they want to stop the pain and they do not know how else to stop it and the only way to make the emotional pain stop is to take their lives,” said the psychologist.
He said there is need to strengthen mental health facilities where people can freely seek counselling in case of depression. Bandawe observed that the cause of depression arises from various sources, including relationships and employment.
In an interview, Kadadzera said most cited reasons for suicide, based on their records, were infidelity, financial problems and chronic illness.
He said most men commit suicide because either their partner is cheating on them or have financial problems, which is not the case with women.
“Men are less resilient
financial challenges; say lack of employment or inability to pay back a loan would lead to depression and later suicide. As police, we urge people to utilise our victim support units, where they can get professional counselling,” said Kadadzera.
A Chancellor College-based sociologist Dr. Jubilee Tizifa said men were more vulnerable because of societal expectation of a man as a provider. Tizifa, who on Monday this week lost a nephew to suicide, said due to masculinity, men do not like to fail; hence committing suicide.
“There is an expectation that a man has to be a provider. He needs a job, he needs money to support family and when they do not have the means to make the money, depression catches up with them; hence committing suicide,” she said.
In Lilongwe, we met a family which is yet to come to terms after losing a breadwinner to suicide.
“I never thought my brother would die in such a way. It was after he learnt that his wife was cheating on him—that’s when he started behaving strangely—drinking excessively, as a way of coping up.
“One day, after we had our drinks, he left for his house, where he called for his children and bade them farewell, ‘that he was leaving’. For the children this was one of his jokes… He went into his bedroom and took his life by drinking poison,” narrated the deceased’s brother.
Our interviews with
police officers in different districts pointed to marital issues and financial problems as major causes of suicide.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) estimates that every year, about 800 000 people commit suicide and 79 percent of global suicide occurs in low and middle income countries.
WHO describes suicide as a serious problem which needed to be addressed through a comprehensive multi-sectoral suicide prevention strategy.
The UN body has identified depression as a major driver of suicide, and it estimates that 300 million people across the world are affected by depression