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Africa / Health

“Suicide in Africa needs to be treated seriously”

Treat Suicide Seriously Now

Concerns about a mental health crisis that is tearing through Egyptian higher education institutions have been raised by suicides among university students, particularly medical students, and it is necessary to take action.

Six students perished between October and September 2022, three of whom were in the medical field (two pharmacy students and one medicine student). Local media also reported that six university students killed themselves: three students majoring in medicine, one in dentistry, and one each in engineering and law. They had attended a variety of universities.

These deaths occur at a time when experts in higher education institutions are urging them to assist in addressing the enormous problem of students’ mental health in Africa and elsewhere.

Joseph Osafo, head of the psychology department at the University of Ghana and professor of clinical/health psychology, is one academic who wants to see more support for mental health.

“Students’ mental health support systems require university investment. Africa’s governments must combat negative attitudes toward people in suicidal crises and invest in mental health services to lessen the stigma associated with suicide.

Osafo expressed, “This will help recognize and report individuals in a self-destructive emergency on time and give assistance.”

The lead author of the 2020 research project titled “Suicide Prevention in the African Region” is Osafo.

Professor Annette Beautrais, a suicidologist at the University of Canterbury in New Zealand, agreed with Osafo that it was tragic when students died in difficult circumstances and that medical students required early guidance on good mental health.

The 2020 editorial titled “Stress and suicide in medical students and physicians” was written by Beautrais.

Osafo is clear about the factors that contribute to mental anguish: Medical education is stressful, and students need psychosocial support from the beginning.

Osafo exhorted, “They should be continually screened to recognize the people who might be encountering challenges, and they should be given prompt help, particularly between the third and fifth years.”

Additionally, students who are performing below expectations should not be ignored or only threatened to improve. They must be an interesting group.

“Even those who are doing well should not be assumed to be in good health based solely on their high scores; rather, they should constantly be engaged in order to learn about their difficulties and difficulties.

Osafo said, “Religious beliefs and practices can alleviate psychological distress for religious medical students.”

Beautrais went on to discuss additional strategies for preventing medical student suicide: From the moment they enter the medical school through their professional careers, foster a culture of self-responsibility for well-being and self-care.

“Destigmatize, de-penalize, and encourage mental health problem-seeking among medical students and physicians; ensure that mental health is taught to medical students early and thoroughly so that they are able to recognize distress in fellow students at an early age.”

According to Beautrais, this will assist in “intervening early by knowing how and where to refer them for appropriate help” as well as “encouraging proactive physical, mental, and spiritual health actions, as well as social connections and support throughout medical school.”

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