Why is there a mental health emergency in Africa? | The Stream

The World Health Organization has launched a campaign aimed at boosting suicide prevention across Africa, amid a continent-wide crisis in mental health provision.

About 11 people per 100,000 per year die by suicide in Africa, higher than the worldwide average of nine per 100,000 people, the UN agency says. Of the ten countries with the world’s highest rates of death by suicide, the WHO told Al Jazeera that six are in Africa: Lesotho, Eswatini, South Africa, Zimbabwe, Mozambique, and Central African Republic.

The WHO estimates that for every death by suicide in Africa there are about 20 attempted suicides. With the number of people across Africa affected by mental health conditions on the rise and few mental health professionals available to help people in crisis, the WHO is now urging regional governments to put more funding into mental health programming and services. On average, governments provide less than 50 US cents per head of population for mental health care – less than a quarter of amount of money needed for such provision in low-income countries.

Public outreach and education is also key to improving mental health outcomes across the continent, the WHO says. Mental health advocates point to social stigma around mental health conditions as a major impediment to people getting support and treatment.

In this episode of The Stream we’ll look at what is behind high rates of death by suicide in parts of Africa, the challenges people experiencing mental health emergencies routinely face, and what urgent action is needed to provide life-saving help to those who need it.

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