The World Health Organisation (WHO) has urged governments and relevant stakeholders
for strong multisectoral collaborations toward limiting access to pesticides, firearms and certain medications to prevent suicide.
The WHO Regional Director for Africa, Dr Matshidiso Moeti, made the call in a statement made available to newsmen by
Ms Chiaka Orjiako, WHO, Nigeria, on Wednesday in Abuja.
The regional director also appealed to governments to strengthen policies to reduce the harmful use of alcohol to prevent
suicide ahead of the 2019 World Mental Health Day coming up on Oct. 10, which has “Working Together to Prevent Suicide” as its theme.
The Day is for global mental health education, awareness and advocacy against social stigma, first celebrated in 1992 at the initiative
of the World Federation for Mental Health, a global mental health organisation with members and contacts in more than 150 countries.
The WHO director added that the World Mental Health Day is also an opportunity to unite African regions and the world for better well-being.
Moeti said that “the focus of the Day is suicide prevention because the menace has become a global concern.
“In the African region, data is scarce and stigma is significant around suicide, but we know this is an important public health problem.
“Where data is available such as in Côte d’Ivoire, Equatorial Guinea and Lesotho, the suicide rates have been shown to be higher
than 20 per 100,000 people each year.
“This is higher than in most European countries, China or the U.S. ”
The regional director said almost four out of five suicide cases occur in low- and middle-income countries, noting that
“in those countries, the rates are similar among men and women.”
She explained that “in the African region, WHO works with countries to integrate mental health services at the primary care and
community levels through the WHO Package of Essential Non-communicable Disease (PEN) interventions.”
She added that a WHO Mental Health Gap Action Programme (mhGAP) training was so far conducted in Liberia, Nigeria, South Sudan and Uganda, saying that
the world body was also working with communities to address psychosocial needs in the aftermath of health emergencies.
She said “yes, we know that mental health is a chronically under-resourced area, in Ethiopia, it is estimated that 20 million
people have mental health issues, but only 10 per cent have access to treatment and less than one per cent receiving specialised care.”
She, therefore, call on governments and relevant stakeholders in the health sector to train non-specialised workers to assess and manage
Moeti also urged stakeholders in the health sector to identify, treat and care for people with mental and substance use disorders,
chronic pain and acute emotional distress, and improve follow-up care for people who attempted suicide.
The regional director also appealed to stakeholders in the education sector to implement school-based interventions to
offer mental health support for adolescents and urged
researchers to conduct studies to identify culturally relevant risk factors and how they apply in different contexts.
She said “the media can report responsibly in line with WHO guidance; and communities can contribute to reducing
stigma and discrimination and provide supportive networks.
“Together, we can reduce the number of suicide cases, tackle the stigma of mental illness and support each other for
better well-being in our communities,’’ she said. (NAN)