UN health agency urges governments to make suicide prevention a priority in Africa |

“Every suicide death is a tragedy,” the doctor said. Matshidiso Moeti, WHO Regional Director for Africa, who argued that suicide prevention is “rarely a priority” in national health programs.

ahead world mental health day On October 10, she called for “significant investment … to tackle the growing burden of chronic disease and non-communicable diseases in Africa, such as psychiatric disorders, which can contribute to suicide.”

Mental health issues are doubling down

According to the WHO, mental health problems affect 116 million people in the African region, up from 53 million in 1990..

The continent also has six of the 10 countries in the world with the highest suicide rateshowever, the agency also noted that for every suicide in Africa, there are approximately 20 suicide attempts.

Budget limits

Despite the urgency of the problem, African governments are allocating less than 50 US cents per person for mental illness treatmentsays the WHO. This is five times more than in 2017, but still well below the recommended $2 per person for low income countries.

In addition, mental health care is generally not included in national health insurance schemes, the WHO said, noting that there is only one psychiatrist for every 500,000 inhabitants in Africa.

This is 100 times lower than the WHO recommendation. In addition, mental health workers mostly work in urban areas, often leaving rural communities without any support.

“Mental health is an integral part of healthy health and well-being, but too many people in our region who need mental health care do not receive it. It’s time for a radical changeDr. Moeti said. “Continuous efforts by countries must be strengthened and expanded to make mental health a public health priority in the African region.”

Help is at hand

WHO already supporting countries in their efforts revitalize mental health services in Africa.

This includes helping primary health care workers in Zimbabwe who are being trained to improve the quality and access to mental health services.

In Kenya, Uganda and Zimbabwe, a study on investment needs in mental health services was completed and advocacy is under way to obtain the necessary resources.

WHO is also helping Cape Verde and Côte d’Ivoire analyze the country’s suicide situation as a first step towards developing an effective response.

In August 2022, African health ministers agreed on a new strategy to strengthen mental health at a WHO regional conference. The 2030 targets they set called for all countries on the continent to have a mental health policy or legislation; 60% of countries must implement this policy, 95% of countries must monitor and report on key mental health indicators, and 80% of countries must budget for mental health services.

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