The social media campaign, launched ahead of World Mental Health Day which falls on Oct. 10, aims to reach 10 million people across the African region to raise public awareness and galvanize the support of governments and policymakers to increase focus and funding for mental health programming, including suicide prevention efforts.
Around 11 people per 100,000 per year die by suicide in the African region, higher than the global average of nine per 100,000 people.
This is due in part to insufficient action to address and prevent the risk factors, including mental health conditions which currently affect 116 million people, up from 53 million in 1990, according to a statement made by the WHO regional office for Africa.
Africa “is home to six of the ten countries with the highest suicide rates in the world,” it continued. The most common methods used are “hanging, pesticide poisoning and, to a lesser extent, drowning, use of a firearm, plunging into a void or overdosing on drugs”.
This situation is explained “in part by the limited means of action available to treat and prevent risk factors, including mental disorders,” the text adds.
The region “has one psychiatrist for every 500,000 inhabitants, which is 100 times less than the WHO recommendation,” it says.
The aim, according to the same source, is to “raise awareness among the general public and mobilize the support of governments and decision-makers to give more attention and funding to programs dedicated to mental health.
In Kenya, Uganda and Zimbabwe, “advocacy is underway to mobilize resources. WHO also added that it was providing support to Cape Verde and Côte d’Ivoire “to conduct a national analysis of the suicide situation”.
Studies show that in Africa for each completed suicide, there are an estimated 20 attempted ones.