Wednesday, May 18, 2022

Women more susceptible to suicide attempts than men

A program report by Botswana Network for Mental Health (BONMEH) has revealed that compared to men, women demonstrate higher rates of suicidal thinking, non-fatal suicidal behaviour and suicide attempts.


The report, a compilation of statistics from the last quarter of 2021 (October-31 December 2021), noted that suicide attempts are more prevalent amongst adult females followed by adolescent girls and young women.


According to the executive director of BONMEH Charity Kennedy the 2021/2022 financial year recorded 208 cases of attempted suicide-141 females and 63 males (data for 3 quarters pending the last quarter) while the previous financial year 2020/2021 recorded a total of 223 cases-177 females and 46 males.


Statistics by the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Global Burden of Disease estimate that almost 800,000 people die from suicide every year-that is one person every four seconds. This makes suicide one of the leading causes of death globally and therefore a major concern. However, Kennedy denotes that with Covid-19 which has had a profound effect on people’s lives, there is a likelihood of the increase- something we need to really think about.


BONMEH’s mission is to empower communities on mental health and to develop a strategic intent and direction for mental health, which is inclusive in design and recognizes the potential contribution of all sectors. Its vision is to improve mental health care, build public confidence in mental health services and create a stigma-free nation by 2030.


Operationally, BONMEH creates demand and provides counselling services to the general population in Botswana to also try to mitigate stressors associated with the Covid-19 pandemic. BONMEH has developed its capacity to deliver mental health counselling services to the general population through face to face services, telephone and virtual communication platforms. Beyond implementation BONMEH also builds capacity and coordinates mental health efforts amongst civil society and leads on advocacy matters for better service delivery.


According to Kennedy, their observations have found that women show both ideation and attempts while men mostly show attempts even though the numbers are far less as compared to women. Suicide ideation is the thought of ending one’s own life or the thought of finishing life; while suicide attempt is one of self-destructive behavior that refers to the act or the behavior of attempting to finish one’s life, and the outcome is non-fatal. The chances of a fatal outcome increase with more unsuccessful attempts – so it is essential that intervention is possible.


The reasons behind these attempted suicides vary from intimate partner stresses, family conflicts, depression and trauma.


“We need to appreciate the landscape of challenges faced by women. Females face harsh challenges and the response to mitigate these challenges is very low raising the vulnerability to suicide. As we interrogate these attempts one would appreciate that they have a background of unaddressed suicidal thoughts that have been running for some time. Also let us appreciate that these statistics were recorded during the Covid-19 pandemic.”


She further explained that men choose more lethal methods to commit suicide than women. “Observations are that when women attempt suicide they normally would use something that is far less lethal making chances of survival higher and also showing that it was indeed a cry for help as opposed to the actual intent to die.”


“The reactions between males and females differ and are influenced by many factors including culture.” Research suggests that women’s greater vulnerability to suicidal behavior is likely to be due to gender related vulnerability to psychopathology and to psychosocial stressors.


Facilitating community engagement in suicide prevention is an important task as reliable support is key in helping to ease the impact of trauma for some of these women. “BONMEH provides free counselling which entails self-discovery, coping skills and understanding problem solving skills,” said Kennedy.


“Multi-sectoral approach is key in improved health programming, respect and learn to communicate with an understanding of one another as people differ and react differently. Communities need to understand that stigma and bias shame us all and work towards the zeal to understand and promote mental health amongst themselves,” emphasised Kennedy.
Policy makers, legislators and development partners need to embrace the fact that we are behind time, if we fail to bring resources, programs and laws together soon mental illness is the next pandemic looming.

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