Sharp rise in Malawi suicide rates: MentalCare says isolated people with mental health issues are vulnerable

People with mental health problems who are driven into isolation due to the ravaging global pandemic, novel Covid-19 are at high risk of committing suicide, a UK-based Malawian mental health research group and charity organisation, MentalCare, has warned as Malawi is seeing a sharp rise in suicide rates this year.

Executive director of MentalCare,  Gerald Namwaza-Banda: Suicide is a very serious issue at the moment 

MentalCare executive director Gerald Namwaza-Banda said this in a global World Mental Health Day virtual conference from the UK on October 10, an International day for global mental health education, awareness and advocacy against social stigma said;

“People with mental health problems are so vulnerable and at high risk to commit suicide when send in isolation due to Coronavirus because it becomes a double jeopardy for them.

“They have to deal with two stinging stigmas at once. Having mental health problems is one of the biggest stigmas in the community one can face as people are judgemental; and now if you have tested positive for coronavirus or showing signs of the virus, people stay away from you,” he said.

Namwaza-Banda, a mental health specialist said it is dangerous to let people with mental health issues go into isolation due to Covid-19 because by having mental health problems they are already isolated from the normal world.

“While it is important to have everyone be isolated when they have tested positive for coronavirus it is also important to consider people’s mental wellbeing and those with mental health problems must be given an extra support because on their own they are prone to killing themselves,” said Namwaza-Banda.

The MentalCare boss appealed to Malawi government leadership to put in place measures that will protect people with mental health problems from harm and danger.

“The government must ensure that people with mental health problems are well looked after. Anyone can have a mental health breakdown regardless of who they are or what they do,” he said.

Added Namwaza: “In Malawi,  and perhaps in all African countries, people with mental health issues are oftentimes ridiculed and sidelined and sometimes branded as weed smokers.

“Sometimes people also believe that if someone has mental health problems then he must be bewitched by his or kinsfolk, which is competely wrong.”

Director of mental health services at Malawi’s Ministry of Health Immaculate Chamangwana said that although the country has a lack of specialist hospitals, metal health services are embedded in general hospitals.

“In all these hospitals we have psychiatric nurses and clinicians, but these people are not only concentrating on mental health but also … maternity and paediatric [services]. Government deliberately put a policy to have a period where they come to Zomba mental hospital [the country’s only specialised mental health hospital] to ensure that every worker has the necessary skills,” she said.

World Health Organization  (WHO) statistics show that 79% of all suicides happen in low- and middle-income countries.

The WHO recognises World Mental Health Day on 10th October every year.

This year’s theme set by the World Federation for Mental Health is ‘Mental Health for All.’

World Mental Health Day was first celebrated in 1992 at the initiative of the World Federation for Mental Health, a global mental health organization with members and contacts in more than 150 countries.[

This day, each October, millions of people across the globe come together to celebrate this annual awareness program to bring attention to mental illness and its major effects on peoples’ lives worldwide.

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1 year ago

So it is you who lied on BBC that Malawi has increased suicides due to Covid?

Marvin Hanke
Marvin Hanke
1 year ago

There is a lot that government needs to do apart from saying they have specialists in general hospitals. Funded big long term media campaigns are needed since most people do not know what mental health is. They think ndi anthu a misala. There is also need to let people know that alcohol, chamba and other substance abuse stuff are not causes of misala but they exacerbate mental health situations when they are used as solutions for mental health. The youth are most vulnerable. I am one of the people in media who is passionate about this ignored area of health… Read more »

1 year ago
Reply to  Marvin Hanke

Maka ana amu Naperi Marvin, they need help…

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