Suicide rates have been steadily rising worldwide, but they’re growing at particularly rapid rates in certain regions of the world, including Africa. In Uganda, suicide rates have gone up by as much as 30% in recent years, and the country now ranks among the top 10 countries in Africa with the highest suicide rates. Young people are particularly susceptible to suicide, and suicide prevention has become an urgent issue throughout the country. Suicide prevention groups are working hard to inform young people about warning signs, how to recognize those who might be at risk, and what steps can be taken to prevent future tragedies from occurring.
The scale of the problem
One of the most alarming statistics when it comes to suicide prevention is that Uganda has one of the highest rates of youth suicide anywhere in the world. And it’s not just youths, Uganda also has one of the highest rates for elder adults, with about 1-2% aged 60+ committing suicide each year. The factors behind this disturbing statistic are many and complex. But the overarching theme of a lack of resources and information among Ugandan youths who face extreme social pressures have led them to feeling hopeless and suicidal. In order to address these challenges head on, there needs to be more public education campaigns aimed at providing information on mental health services and awareness of what help is available. There also needs to be more accessible mental health care options so that people can get treatment quickly if they need it. Educating children as early as possible can go a long way towards creating an environment where suicides aren’t seen as inevitable or an acceptable response.
How to get help
It’s important to know that help is available. There are many organizations out there, both national and international, that offer mental health services for the various situations that we may be faced with. There are also a number of helplines available too, 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Reach out to them when you need help and they will provide you with the necessary services. All it takes is one phone call or visit to get back on your feet again. You’re not alone and people care about you!
Ways to prevent suicide
There are a number of ways you can identify someone who is considering suicide and ensure they receive help. Warning signs include, but are not limited to, a sense of hopelessness or helplessness, withdrawal from friends and family, increased substance abuse, unexplained rage outbursts or any other self-destructive behavior such as overworking or cutting themselves. Some people may be open about wanting to die while others will leave subtle hints that they want to harm themselves. If you know someone who wants to commit suicide, don’t ignore the warning signs. Don’t make it worse by making them feel guilty for their feelings. It’s important to let them know that they have options and that there is always hope.
What can you do?
In Uganda, it is estimated that 15% of youth suicides are related to financial concerns. This often stems from the decision of dropping out of school due to not being able to afford the tuition. Youth should feel they have someone to talk to who can offer a safe space for them. Peer-to-peer intervention could help young people connect with each other and share their experiences with mental health. Asking about suicide risk should be normal behavior in any medical setting, and starting a conversation about suicide with friends or family members can also be helpful. Youths will likely be less willing to discuss suicidal thoughts if they are feeling overwhelmed by emotional pain or feeling like there is no hope left. Remind them that there are ways to get through this difficult time, such as reaching out for support or attending therapy sessions.
Many youths between the ages of 10 and 24 die by suicide every year. The suicide rate among this age group is nearly five times higher than the global average. In response, Human Rights Research Documentation Centre and other organizations like Uganda Children Organization are working with communities and schools to create programs aimed at prevention and awareness. They train counselors to work with troubled youths to stop them from harming themselves or others, as well as community leaders on how to build social capital among teens who have been victims of violence.