Malawi Girl Guides take mental health awareness to Ntchisi

In the wake of increasing suicide cases nationwide, Malawi Girl Guides Association engaged people of Ntchisi District where they made them aware that committing suicide is due to mental health issues — thus they need to seek guidance once they are depressed.

Just on Christmas Day, a 12-year-old boy in Dowa hanged himself after a misunderstanding over household chores with his elder brother, prompting the police to advise parents and guardians to be watchful towards their children’s actions to avoid such deaths.

An awareness march through street of Ntchisi

Speaking during an interface session on mental health on Saturday that the Girl Guides conducted in Ntchisi, leader Schola Kaira emphasized that mental health issues deserve attention as they affect a person’s thinking, emotions and even behaviour.

She said the Girl Guide Association decided to raise awareness on mental health in the wake of increasing suicide cases in the country, which — according to the World Health Organisation (WHO), treatment and awareness of mental illnesses can reduce the risk of suicide.

“Mental health is not only affecting young people but adults as well that is why the session has brought together people of different ages,” Kaira said.

The just ended 2022 saw an alarming increase of suicide cases in the country, which — according statistics from the National Police Headquarters — stood at 168 people committing suicide from January to October this year and 58 cases were registered in the month of October alone.

There have also been many other cases reported in the media in the month of November prompting many concerned NGOs and the clergy to raise awareness of this problem associated with social issues due to lack of guidance.

One of the Girl Guides, Abigail Kaonga — a student at Ekwendeni College of Health Sciences — described the session as an eye opener, saying it had helped to equip her with knowledge on where she could get solutions to problems she may face.

“Through this session, I have realised that I should not be looking down upon myself but rather be confident and believe in myself,” she said. “I have learnt about various institutions and the role they play to the society, such as the social welfare office, where they provide counselling services.”

A student at Ntchisi Secondary School, Hendrina Laarus said the interface was timely as mental health — if not handled properly — can affect students academically and emotionally.

She said she has benefitted a lot from the various presentations and answers provided during the session from the police, social welfare and education officials among others.

A teacher at Katayamoyo Primary School, Paul Phiri said the idea of having presenters from different sectors was a welcome development as they acted as role models to the students to motivate them to work hard in their studies.

The interface session was held under the YESS Girls Movement, an international exchange programme for young women aged 18 to 25 years old — with funding from the Norwegian Agency for Exchange Cooperation (NOREC).

The Malawi Girl Guide Association is a member of the World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts (WAGGGS).

On the boy who committed suicide at Kankhande Village in Traditional Authority (T/A) Chiwere in Dowa on Christmas Day — identified by the Police as Precious Katsongo — hanged himself in his bedroom around six in the morning.

According to Dowa Police Station publicist, Gladson M’bumpha, the deceased and his elder brother Frank (16), started doing household chores when the deceased demanded that he wanted to clean utensils and not to sweep outside the house.

But his elder brother denied him this option and it did not please Precious, who got angry and stormed inside their home.

“A few minutes later, the deceased’s sister entered the house where she found her young brother hanging from the roof and she immediately rushed to alert neighbours and elders in the village,” M’bumpha said.

He said the police and medical personnel visited the scene and postmortem conducted established that death was due to suffocation — emphasizing that no foul play was suspected.

Thus M’bumpha advising parents and guardians to be watchful over their children to avoid such unfortunate deaths.—Additional reporting by Duncan Mlanjira, Nyasa Times

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