GOVERNMENT says it will convene a National Indaba on mental health which will take into consideration the rising number of suicide cases.

Speaking in Parliament, Tuesday, Community Development and Social Services Minister Doreen Mwamba said the Indaba was expected to be held before June.

“We are looking at formulating a National Mental Health and Suicide policy that can help us coordinate these issues. I want to announce here that my Ministry is currently working on an National Indaba on mental health and taking into consideration, the rising numbers of suicide cases. Most Ministries, members of parliament and religious leaders, traditions leaders will be invited into this Indaba. The Ministry of Home Affairs with the technocrats, Ministry of Health and other Ministries, members of parliament, religious leaders and traditional leaders, so that we can take a look at what is causing mostly our children to kill themselves. It will be before June this year,” she said.

“Madam Speaker; from the rising number of suicide cases recorded among the youth, it is clear that they are a vulnerable group that requires special attention. It is evident that risks of suicidal behavior have increased among the youth and there is need to interrogate the vice and put in place measures to address this problem. In order to address this problem effectively, there is need to deal with it in every way. Social Workers are instrumental in the process of assessing people’s behaviour and putting in place mitigation measures to those at risk of their own safety. They are more likely to come into contact with suicidal individuals, due to the nature of their work and have the ability to build and maintain positive relationships with individuals, families as well as the community.”

She said 89 suicide cases were recorded in 2021 compared to 97 in 2020.

“Madam Speaker, it is important to mention that so far, there are no consolidated statistics to show suicide cases among the youth in the country however, the country generally recorded 89 suicide cases in 2021 compared to 97 in 2020. At global level, the World Health Organisation reported that 703, 000 people take their own life and there are many more people who attempt suicide. Suicide was also recorded as the fourth leading cause of death among 15-29-year-olds in 2019 with over 77% of global suicides occurring in low- and middle-income countries,” Mwamba said.

“Madam Speaker; there are many factors that are influencing the youth to commit suicide in our country. These include but are not limited to: economic hardships; mental illness; undesirable life events such as loss of a loved one; physical/sexual abuse; relationship breakups/disappointments; and failure to meet high expectations of family and society. There are also certain types of social networks that the youth are involved in which relate to increased suicide risk, both in person and through media influences. Social networks can contribute to increasing suicidal behavior, potentially through imitation, idealizing or by ‘normalising’ suicidal behaviour. Social media has also to some extent multiplied the moral decay in society and has become a concern for increased suicidal behavior. Additionally, there is a strong relationship between clinical factors and suicide. These include depression, anxiety and addiction while physical symptoms include pain and insomnia. Suicide is also associated with suicidal thoughts, hopelessness, feeling like a burden and impulsiveness.”

Mwamba said government had put in place various interventions to mitigate suicide tendencies among the youth.

“Suicide and suicide attempts have a dramatic impact and take an enormous toll on communities however, they are preventable with timely interventions. Therefore, government has put in place various interventions to mitigate suicide tendencies among the youth. These include: (i) The provision of the mental health services at health facilities, promotion of mental well-being and prevention of mental health disorders. These services are available online and physically; Intensified sensitisation programmes by Zambia Police Service and the Drug Enforcement Commission through radio and TV stations in schools and colleges on the effects of drugs and alcohol abuse; Encouraging strong connections to individuals, family, community and social institutions and the provision of counselling, problem-solving and conflict resolution skills to victims and survivors of suicide and gender based violence; Curricular and co-curricular (clubs and sports) activities have been put in place to keep the learners engaged in schools as well as provision of guidance teachers to provide guidance and counseling services in schools,” said Mwamba.

“Guidance and counseling materials with some aspects of mental health have been produced and distributed to schools; Childline/Lifeline Zambia provides and promotes online counseling support services through the childline and gender-based violence helplines and has introduced the Grievance Redress Mechanism (GRM) in some schools to deal urgently with some complaints and counseling-related cases; youth resource centres have facilitated the establishment of youth friendly corners that provide among other services counseling to the youth; sensitization of artists, sports persons and youth on the dangers of substance and drug abuse and the importance of seeking help when in distress through activities; and orientation of social welfare officers on mental health issues.”