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Health and Social Services Minister Dr. Kalumbi Shangula says his ministry is ready to extend its services to those in need, as suicide statistics over the past year paint a grim picture of depression in Namibia.

The number of deaths by suicide and suicide attempts is on the rise.

Of the 623 cases recorded over the past year, including teens and minors, 82% are male.

Dr. Shangula says the rising suicide rate can, to a large extent, be explained by untreated mental health conditions.

Many suicides happen impulsively, he says, in moments of crisis when a person experiences a breakdown in their ability to deal with life's stresses, including financial problems.

"Persons with depression, bipolar disorder, and schizophrenia especially have a high propensity to suicide. Apart from mental health conditions, contributing factors to suicide include substance abuse, chronic health issues, persistent pain or physical disability, feelings of isolation or helplessness, and negative life events. Individuals in these categories warrant close monitoring for suicide prevention."

The Ministry of Health and Social Services commemorated suicide prevention awareness month in the capital under the theme "Creating Hope through Action".

As part of efforts to mitigate suicide, the ministry has established a multi-sectoral committee, the National Suicide Prevention and Treatment Action Group, to assist in raising awareness about the services available and encouraging people to seek help.

The Acting Country Representative of the World Health Organisation, Dr. Mary Brantuo, said the estimated suicide rate globally is staggering.

"Globally, an estimated 700,000 people die by suicide each year. Among these, 77% of deaths occur in low- and middle-income countries. These global suicide bridges are a serious public health concern, and every life lost to suicide creates a devastating impact on families, communities, and nations. The suicide rates in the African region are the highest in the world, with an age-standardised rate of approximately 11 per 100,000 compared to 9 per 100,000 at a global level."

The minister lit a candle of hope as a tribute to the lives lost.

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Joleni Shihapela