10th September 2022
Speech by the Minister of Health, Hon. Sylvia T. Masebo, MP
Theme: “Creating Hope Through Action”
On 10th September 2022, Zambia joined the rest of the global community in raising the banner high and communicating the message of hope as we commemorated the World Suicide Prevention Day under the theme “Creating Hope through Action”.
This day is important because we reflect on issues that have escalated self-harm and suicide in our communities. We also intend to share solutions to prevent this societal problem devastating many families and robbing the country of men, women, youth and children full of potential.
This day also marked the beginning of 30 days of mental health activism as we intensify suicide prevention and mental health awareness raising towards World Mental Health Day that falls on 10th October.
Statistics by the World Health Organization show over 700,000 people die due to suicide every year worldwide. This translates into recording a suicide case every 40 seconds. It has also been noted that for every suicide, many more people attempt inflicting self-harm every year.
Worryingly enough, 79% of global suicides occur in low and middle-income countries and Zambia is not an exception.
The effects of COVID-19 are vivid and continue affecting us all. Even if many have recovered from COVID-19, many are still experiencing symptoms related to the pandemic, even after the recovery from the acute phase of COVID-19 disease, which are overwhelming to bear.
Many people in our communities are struggling with mental ill-health, which is affecting their life choices and outcomes. We have seen an increase in substance and alcohol abuse cases across the country. Sadly, we also observe a concerning number of suicide cases and self-harm cases reported in the media, healthcare facilities, and police stations.
Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen,
The high incidence of suicide cases may be attributed to impulsive decisions in moments of crisis when the affected is not able to deal with life stressors.
These stressors include financial problems, relationship break-ups, chronic pain or ill health, conflicts, disasters, violence, abuse, loss and a sense of isolation, stigma or discrimination and civil disputes amongst family members, friends or neighbours. Further, individuals diagnosed with mental illnesses are at a higher risk of death by suicide.
Suicide affects the people closest to the person who died; like family, friends, co-workers, classmates among others. The people who interacted regularly with the individual who ended their life will miss the physical presence of that person and typically feel the loss most intimately.
In a situation where the individual has struggled openly with mental health concerns, those who knew of the struggle will feel the pain of the loss, leaving them to wonder if they could have done more.
It also has to be noted that attempted suicide by itself is not a disease though it is a presentation in mental health illnesses, it is also the outcome of the many struggles one has endured and has reached the point of quitting.
This therefore calls for all of us to be able to identify the signs or cues that point to one contemplating suicide. Some of these include
• Someone talking about wanting to die, feeling guilty or being a burden to others
• Planning or researching on ways to die
• Making preparations such as saying or writing goodbye messages, giving away important things or drafting a will
• Withdrawing from friends and family
• Using drugs or alcohol more often
• Someone feeling hopeless, unmotivated to live, empty, extremely sad or agitated.
Whether mentioned in a joking manner or as something serious, suicide should always be treated as a worst case scenario.
If you feel or notice the above signs, do not hesitate to visit your nearest health facility for help or call 116 or 933 to talk to a counsellor.
Ladies and Gentlemen
Let me emphatically state that there is hope for every situation. We can prevent suicide. The prevention of suicide however requires a multi – sectoral approach. All of us have a role to play.
The theme for this year is “Creating Hope through action” we therefore need to act and bring hope to our dear friends who feel hopeless, helpless or worthless. The Ministry of Health is therefore, taking these incidences of suicide and suicide attempts as a medical and psychiatric emergency of public health concern.
To that effect, I direct all health facilities through Provincial Health Directors to ensure that mental health and management of suicide attempts and suicide ideations be given utmost attention.
The Government, under the able leadership of His Excellency Mr Hakainde Hichilema, recommits to continuing strengthening mental health services at primary health care level.
Currently, all hospitals have medical personnel equipped with the skills to support suicide prevention.
We will continue to support awareness campaigns on suicide prevention. As members of the community, let us be involved in suicide prevention by strengthening peer support groups especially for our adolescents and young adults, and also by being alert to suicidal signs and respond promptly and appropriately. We will also continue to engage major stakeholders such as Religious and Traditional Leaders and the media on how to scale up the prevention of suicide in Zambia and will endeavor to create safe-homes, for individuals facing mental health crises.
Ladies and gentlemen
Creating hope through action is our theme reminding us that we need to be action oriented, addressing matters that contribute to suicidal presentations, by creating mental health resilience among our communities.
It is now, my singular honour and privilege to declare this year’s World Suicide Prevention Day and 30 days of Mental Health Activism officially launched.
Thank You And May God Bless Our Beloved Country!