Namibia ranks fourth in the rate of suicide on the African continent, the country’s deputy minister of health and social services, Esther Muinjangue, said at a recent regional forum attended by participants from New Zealand, India, Ghana, Nigeria and other countries.
According to official government figures provided to VOA by authorities, Namibia recorded 512 cases of suicide in the year 2020, 496 in 2021 and 510 in 2022. That averages nearly 10 deaths per 100,000 people.
Clinical psychologist Shaun Whittaker told VOA that suicide in Namibia is most prevalent amongst young adult men who have a history of substance abuse. He also attributed the high rate to unemployment and poverty.
“Suicide in Namibia is mainly caused by unemployment amongst young adult men. If one looks at the statistics, certainly over the past decade or so it is usually men in the age group of 20 to 29 who commit suicide by hanging themselves,” he said.
VOA spoke to 38-year-old suicide survivor Florence Beukes, who said she attempted to take her life several times during her teenage years and young adulthood but through counseling and therapy, has outgrown the urge to kill herself.
Beukes said she would try to overdose on medication and once attempted to take her life by swallowing broken pieces of glass that almost severed her vocal cords.
“You see the thing is because I am also a sexual abuse victim, survivor. I am a survivor of GBV [gender-based violence], sexual abuse and rape and that is actually what caused me, you know I fell into deep depression,” she said.
Namibian Deputy Minister of Health Esther Muinjangue told VOA the delegates at the regional forum discussed strategies to address stigma and taboos, which are barriers for people needing mental health care.
She also said relationship problems are a leading cause of suicide.
“Family difficulties or relationship problems. A relationship that has come to an end and one of the two partners is not accepting that and feelings of worthlessness that also goes with having low self-esteem and so on. Those are some of the reasons that are really driving people to commit suicide,” she added.
Attempting suicide remains an offense in more than 20 countries and Muinjangue says de-criminalizing the issue, which was discussed at the forum sponsored by LifeLine International, will assist in breaking the stigma surrounding it.
The organization focuses on suicide awareness and prevention through more than 200 centers around the world.
LineLine Namibia is a branch of Lifeline International which aims to prevent suicide through strategies like a 24-hour hotline, where people with suicidal thoughts can call and receive counseling.