Namibia: More Than 500 Suicides a Year

NAMIBIAN Police inspector general Sebastian Ndeitunga says Namibia's increasing suicide rate is worrying.

"The police on a weekly basis are getting reports of suicides from the regions, with Omusati and Khomas worryingly high. We need to pay attention to each other, speak up and encourage each other to seek counselling from social workers," he says.

According to last week's police statistics, 565 people in Namibia took their lives between April 2020 and April 2021.

Some 80 of these suicides were from the Omusati and Khomas regions alone.

This was followed by the Otjozondjupa region with 79 incidents, Ohangwena with 69, Oshana with 48, Oshikoto with 45, Erongo with 35, the Kavango East region with 33, the Kunene with 27, Hardap with 25, the Kavango West region with 19, the Zambezi with 10, the //Kharas region with nine, and the Omaheke region with six suicides.

Evangeline Hamunyela, a psychiatrist at the Ministry of Health and Social Services, says: "Suicide can be genetic . . . and there are also other factors, such as acute stress, where a person feels whatever they are going through is beyond what they can bear at that moment. And then we have mental illness. A person with mental illness usually hears voices that commands them to take their lives.

"When this happens the person cannot differentiate between reality and their imagination."

She says it is imperative that people suffering from mental illness seek help at every stage of their illness to acquire coping mechanisms.

"Suicide can also be triggered by the environment people find themselves in. If one has nothing productive to do on a daily basis it can cause depression. This causes a person to lose hope and feel it is better not to live. Substance abuse, alcohol and drugs are also suicide triggers," she says.

Social support is very important, Hamunyela says.

"Families need to be educated on depression and mental health issues. It gets worse when people are restricted to enclosed spaces, and Covid-19 even makes it worse," she says.

Samantha Beukes from Windhoek says she has been battling depression for years.

"My family is really not open-minded about mental illness and depression", says Beukes.

Beukes struggles with clinical depression and anxiety that on more than three occasions have brought her at deaths doorstep as she attempted to take her own life.

"I began cutting myself in Grade 8. I have the scars all over my body. I got admitted to a pyschiatric hospital after being diagnosed with clinical depression. I went on medication, but it made me drowsy and sick. I had a boyfriend who was a cheater and an emotional abuser, and he often told me how unloved I am. He told my family he couldn't stand me. He played on my illness and it made things worse, because I just wanted to get out of this life. Now I am married with two children, and every day is a struggle. My husband loves me, but I can see how my condition is affecting him, he is drained. We really need to be kind to one another, people are suffering," she says.

Sylvia Vezeri (45) from Ongwediva, who has also been struggling with her mental health for most of her life, says: "I am not crazy, I have a chemical imbalance in my brain which I can't control. I just go through it and deal with it the best way I can. I find myself stuck at a junction in life . . . so the little voice in my head tells me to take the road less travelled into eternity - an eternity I am hoping would bring me peace and rest."

Vezeri says she has tried to take her life many times, but has failed.

"I couldn't even succeed in taking my own life. My condition has caused me to feel insecure, even though I have had some achievements I am often left thinking I am a total failure, am unloved and I would never amount to anything. That's when the voice in my head tells me to do it [commit suicide]," she says.

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