NATIONAL University of Science and Technology (Nust) Vice Chancellor Professor Mqhele Dlodlo has said suicide cases in the country must be treated as a looming national crisis amid revelations that 1 641 people took their lives in 2018.
Addressing delegates during a two-day Mental Health Awareness and Suicide Prevention Seminar at the University campus which focused on mental health issues and finding ways to prevent them, Prof Dlodlo said statistics showed that 1 641 cases of suicide were recorded in 2018 while 1 838 people perished through road traffic accidents the same year.
University students are part of the statistics although it could not be established exactly how many of them have taken their lives.
“According to WHO, 1,3 percent or 1 641 deaths were due to suicides. To put this in perspective, in the same year, 2018, it was reported that 1 838 people died due to road accidents. What this clearly indicates is that we must treat suicides in Zimbabwe as a looming crisis just the way we do road traffic accidents,” said Prof Dlodlo.
He added that most cases of suicide were by hanging.
“Most such deaths are by hanging. Police reported 142 such cases in the first three months of 2019,” Prof Dlodlo said.
The Nust Vice Chancellor said the seminar was the first one to be held and hoped that similar programmes were going to be implemented in other institutions.
“This programme is mainly focusing on mental issues affecting students. In fact, it’s an augural programme that we hope will spread to other universities so as to curb such issues,” he said.
Professor Kuzvinetsa Peter Dzvimbo, the Chairman of Zimbabwe Council for Higher Education (ZIMCHE), told The Chronicle on the sidelines of the seminar that the programme was important in the prevention of cases of suicide among students.
“If those issues are not handled properly, they may end up becoming a serious mental health problem. In most cases they may lead to children committing suicide. So, it is important for the university staff to be able to identify and possibly prevent such cases. Imagine the loss that a nation incurs when an engineering student commits suicide,” said Prof Dzvimbo.
Dr Nemache Mawere, psychiatrist, added that people spend more time at work related places or at school hence solutions that deal with mental health problems should also come from the same places.
“As employees (we) spend most of our time at the workplace or work-related environment much more than we do at home or recreational facilities. It is therefore most likely that the greater part of any social stresses or sorrows that we experience emanate from our work place. Ironically the expectation is that the solution should come from where we spent the least time, outside our work place,” he said.
Dr Mawere said students also spend most of their time at the university campus hence that is where solutions to their mental problems should come from.
“Similarly, students spend most of their time learning or at learning related institutions than at home or recreational facilities. Ironically, when death or illness strikes, it is those with whom students spend least of their time with that care the most,” he said.
Dr Mawere urged the media to report responsibly especially on cases that deal with suicide.
“Sometimes, the media should make a blackout of such issues because students end up cat-copying. For example, there was an issue of a Harare Pastor who committed suicide by throwing himself from a building. A student also did the same. So sometimes, such cases must be reported responsibly,” he said.