There has been an upsurge, lately, in the number of people who are committing suicide in the country.
The country has so far seen controversial suicide cases, among them the double murder-suicide case of a man in Zingwangwa, Blantyre, who first shot dead his wife and step-child before turning the gun on himself.
In October 2015, four people in Lilongwe, Dedza, Balaka and Blantyre took their own lives for various reasons, among them marital problems—which prompted the police to intensify a campaign to woo people into patronising victim support units (VSU) whenever they encounter problems in families.
Police records attests to this unfortunate reality which has surfaced at a time the country is already grappling with other challenges such as food shortages, diseases and unemployment.
Since January 2016, police in the Southern Region alone have recorded 12 suicide cases, according to police spokesperson James Kadadzera.
“Of the 12 cases from various districts across the region, Thyolo tops the list with five cases,” he said.
National police spokesperson Nicholas Gondwa said the cases were building up across the country.
In an interview, Thyolo district commissioner, Charles Thombozi, conceded that the district council has already sat down to see how they can deal with the matter.
“From the reports we have received from either the police or traditional leaders in areas where these cases have been reported, family matters are a major factor. It seems most family disputes are not fully resolved, as a result some people keep issues to themselves which results in suicide,” he said.
Anthony Sefasi, a mental health specialist who works as a senior lecturer in the Department of Community and Mental Health at Kamuzu College of Nursing, said in an interview this week that suicide is a factor-based occurrence.
“Suicide is caused by various factors of which poverty is one of them. As you will appreciate, poverty levels in the country have gone high. This has forced many people to accrue debts. Many people have committed suicide for failure to pay back such debts,” he said.
In his explanation, Sefasi said suicide also result from failure by men to fulfil their obligations as providers for their households. He also cited the abuse of alcohol and other drugs, including the denial of reality in cases of bodily infections, among others.
Explaining why some districts such as Thyolo and Mzimba have had high suicide cases than others, Sefasi alluded to cultural and socio-economic dynamics.
“Cultural beliefs and poverty can explain incidences of high suicide rates in these districts. You will notice that most likely those killing themselves more are men who are breadwinners when they fail in their roles. Sometimes it also because men tend to use more lethal methods of killing themselves than,” he said.
Yesaya Kamtsonyo from the area of Traditional Authority Ganya Ntcheu said most Malawians are not appraised on how to handle people with suicidal thoughts.
“I lost my cousin a few years ago who hanged himself after frequent quarrels with his mother over issues to do with his education. She wanted him to drop out and marry but he refused. He ended up taking his own life. But had we known how to deal with a case of this nature, probably we could have saved his life,” he said.
Sefasi said people who are harbouring suicidal thoughts may show some signs which may be noted by family members.
“If someone who has been sociable, was easily associating with other people and all of a sudden withdraws, isolating himself or herself, family members should be concerned and seek professional help. Some people start making expressions such as ‘the world would be nice without them’ or ‘you will suffer when I am gone’,” he said.
According to Sefasi, some people on the path to suicide give out their valuable items freely to others.
“When a relative has experienced a great loss such as a major financial crisis, loss of shares, their expensive items stolen, job losses and others, do not take things for granted. And if your relative writes a suicide note do not take it lightly, seek professional help,” he added.
He further warned people not to allow people with depression to have access to lethal weapons and substances such as knives, ropes guns and poison but to take them to a mental health expert for counselling.