World Mental Health Day 2019 focuses on suicide prevention

10 Oct 2019, 12:00 am
Financial Nigeria


An estimated 20-30 per cent of Nigeria’s population is believed to suffer from mental disorders.

According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), someone loses their life to suicide every 40 seconds. This means more than 800,000 people die by suicide each year. WHO also said suicide is the most common cause of death among people 15-29 years old. The organisation has joined the World Federation for Mental Health (WFMH) today to mark the World Mental Health Day (WMHD) 2019.

The WMHD is organised annually on October 10th by the WFMH to promote awareness on mental health issues. The day was first celebrated in 1992. The theme for WMHD 2019 is Suicide Prevention. This focuses on providing psychological first aid and other forms of support, including medical, for people in distress.

In a letter written by the WFMH’s President, Dr. Alberto Trimboli, he said suicidal behaviour has increased in all parts of the world in the past few decades, reaching alarming statistical levels. WHO said by 2030, depression, if not tackled, will be the leading illness globally.

The Federation said suicide is a global public health problem. While it is caused by several complex factors, including mental disorder, a lot of young people engage in suicidal behaviour as a result of violence, sexual abuse, bullying and cyberbullying. Some examples of mental disorders are schizophrenia, depression, intellectual disabilities and disorders due to drug abuse.

The WHO puts Nigeria’s suicide rate at 9.5 per 100,000 in 2016. However, mental disorder in the country has since risen to an alarming proportion.  

An estimated 20-30 per cent of Nigeria’s population is believed to suffer from mental disorders, according to the Permanent Secretary at the Ministry of Health, Abdulaziz Abdullahi. In November last year, Abdullahi said the attention given to mental health disorders in Nigeria was inadequate.

According to him, “By 2020, it is estimated that common mental disorders such as depression, anxiety, and substance abuse-related disorders, will disable more people than complications arising from HIV/AIDS, heart disease, accidents, and wars combined.”

Experts say people who suffer from mental illness lack access to mental health services and they are sometimes stigmatized, leading to suicidal thoughts. The lack of adequate mental health services and medical practitioners, particularly psychiatrics, in Nigeria is a major challenge to tackling mental disorder in Nigeria.

"I reiterate: suicide is preventable and can therefore be avoided, which is why all of our efforts and public policies should focus on prevention," said Dr. Trimboli. “However, oftentimes, people who suffer from mental illness lack access to mental health services, sometimes because there are no services in their community and sometimes because they must wait months to be seen.”

This year’s WMHD is also supported by the International Association for Suicide Prevention, and United for Global Mental Health.