MASERU – According to the World Health Organization (WHO) each year 703 000 people take their own life and there are many more who attempt suicide. Every suicide is a tragedy that affects families, communities and entire countries and has long-lasting effects on the people left behind. Suicide was the fourth leading cause of death among 15 to 29-year-olds globally in 2019. WHO further notes that suicides are a serious public health problem, although they are preventable with timely, evidence-based and often low-cost interventions.
Reported to be the leading cause of death among people around the globe, the world has made suicide prevention awareness a priority – commemorating this initiative annually in September to raise awareness on suicide prevention to improve education as well as build skills within communities to reduce incidents of self-harm. Suicidal thoughts, much like mental health conditions, can affect anyone regardless of age, gender or background.
“In fact, suicide is often the result of an untreated mental health condition. Suicidal thoughts, although common, should not be considered normal and often indicate more serious issues,” WHO says. As the world celebrates the international World Suicide Prevention Awareness Month, Tunasafiri hosted an event at a local hotel on Saturday, September 11 where audiences were allowed a chance to interject during the main talk in order to get clarity on issues surrounding mental health and suicide. Tunasafiri is a Swahili word for ‘we travel’.
Invited guests included, among others, mental health sanctuary Mohlomi Hospital, the SOS and an independent psychologist. Nthati Phakoe from Tunasafiri says her organisation’s members have lived with mental illnesses for the most part for their lives and have now found a way of living with and above them. She said they are an organisation of survivors that seeks to raise awareness and advocacy around mental health and issues surrounding it. Phakoe also said they want people to be aware that mental health is as important as physical health and are combating this on a social level and not a technical level.
The intention, she said, is to break the stigma surrounding mental illnesses and encourage people to speak up and seek help. September is Suicide Prevention Awareness Month, a time to raise awareness on this stigmatised, and often taboo, topic. In addition to shifting public perception, the month is used to spread hope and vital information to people affected by suicide. The goal is to ensure that individuals, friends and families have access to the resources they need to discuss suicide prevention and to seek help.