Today is World Suicide Prevention Day, a day dedicated to promoting positive mental health and preventing suicide. It is a global issue that affects millions of individuals worldwide. The World Health Organization estimates that in 2019 alone, there were over 700,000 deaths from suicide, with a suicide rate of 9.0 per 100,000 people per year.
Within Africa, six out of the ten countries with the highest suicide rates are located on the continent. Suicide is particularly prevalent among young people, especially men aged 17-35. Sadly, attempted suicide remains a crime in at least ten African countries, which only adds to the stigmatization and makes it harder for individuals to seek help.
Mental health conditions and substance use disorders are associated with around 90% of suicide cases and attempts. Depression is the most common mental health condition linked to suicide. Other contributing factors include the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, socio-economic challenges, domestic violence, and various forms of abuse.
The theme for this year’s World Suicide Prevention Day, “Creating Hope through Action,” aligns with Africa CDC’s strategic priorities. Africa CDC aims to promote mental health and well-being, especially among high-risk groups such as healthcare workers. Throughout the pandemic, Africa CDC has organized webinars focusing on mental health and resilience for healthcare workers, providing hope and building resilience.
Internally, Africa CDC implemented a “rest and recovery” system for their staff responding to COVID-19. This system greatly improved the well-being of employees. Additionally, mental health and psychosocial support have been integrated into emergency preparedness and response plans, including addressing suicide and self-harm in humanitarian settings.
Africa CDC has collaborated with partners to conduct regional workshops in Western, Central, and Eastern Africa, bringing together mental health directors and emergency response officers from 38 member states. These workshops aim to develop plans on integrating mental health and psychosocial support into national action plans for health security.
Furthermore, Africa CDC is committed to supporting member states in reviewing and reforming mental health policies and legislation to meet continental and global standards.
As we commemorate World Suicide Prevention Day, let us work together to create a world where everyone has equal opportunities for positive mental health and well-being. Through collective action, we can prevent suicide in Africa and promote mental wellness for all.