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A Crisis

A 12-year-old boy committed suicide in December, Last year. January this year a 16-year-old boy committed suicide, and very recently, this February, a 12-year-old boy in Chiradzulu also committed suicide. We can argue all we want about and against what we think triggered these suicides but the fact that should haunt us is that, three boys lost their lives in three consecutive months.

There is undoubtedly a very big problem, but what steps have we taken as a nation to solve this crisis beyond the usual "raising awareness”? Because on the ground, clearly not much is being done to solve this situation. For how long are we going to pretend to be shocked when we learn of another suicide?

With suicide cases among children and teen agers, I've noticed a prevalent preconception and tendency by adults to minimize the experiences of children or teenagers. Most adults view children as beings incapable of experiencing mental distress which might make them consider suicide. Forgetting that teenagers, just like anybody else at what ever age, encounter obstacles and troubles, which means they, too, may reach a point when they may feel suicide is their only alternative. To an adult like me, being summoned to a disciplinary hearing may seem like a walk in the park, but to a secondary student, much is at stake.

According to several studies, suicide seldom occurs without a warning (cry for help). Which means that, at some point parents, guardians and leaders might come across this cry for help but fail to recognize it or worse choose to ignore it. Which brings us to the question of how aware are parents, relatives, and especially teachers (since children spend the majority of their time in school) in detecting these warnings? And even if they recognize these warnings, where do they go to seek the required assistance on behalf of the distressed children? As we all know very few individuals in Malawi have access to therapists and suicide watch is something which doesn't happen in Malawi.

There is a lot which can be done, for a start the government can introduce school counselors in public schools. These school counselors will be well-equipped to offer free and individual counseling to students as a way of helping them resolve personal or interpersonal problems. Schools as well as religious institutions must seriously consider investing in children's mental health by offering accessible mental health services. Which might include teaching children how to manage their mental health and equipping them with practical skills for resolving conflicts and other mental health related issues.

Suicide Prevention Hotline in Malawi : Malawi Emergency Hotline offers 24-Hour service to people throughout Malawi who are in an emergency situation or is at risk of suicide. Tel: 999 or 997

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