Reversing Africa’s Youth Suicide Trend – LifeLine International Sets the Agenda

  • Reversing Africa’s Youth Suicide Trend – LifeLine International Sets the Agenda image
  • Reversing Africa’s Youth Suicide Trend – LifeLine International Sets the Agenda image

February 2024

LifeLine International hosted an historic suicide prevention discussion at the 3rd International Conference on Public Health in Africa (CPHIA) held at the end of November in Lusaka, Zambia.  Featuring presentations and a panel discussion, the Official Side Event bought together LifeLine Members from Zambia and Namibia, as well as campaigners, activists and experts to discuss the scale of suicide, critical steps in prevention.  

The CPHIA is hosted by the Africa CDC and bought together 4,500 delegates from across the continent, including heads of of Government and health ministers, as well as the broadest cross section of health practitioners, CSOs, NGOs and the community sector.  For the first time, an agenda item on Mental Health and Young People was induced, which together with our Side Event on suicide prevention, represent a historic inclusion of both issues on the pan-continental health agenda.  

The Side Event offered a clear call to action: 

  • Suicide is preventable!
  • The problem is very significant in Africa –  stigma is a huge problem and laws criminalising it makes it even worse
  • But we can make a difference – Crisis intervention services, like LLI’s Members are doing this every day.
  • We MUST have hope, to give hope, for anyone in suicidal distress.

We were honoured to host the Hon. Yolanda Awel Deng Juach, Minister of Health, Heath Minister of South Sudan, who made a powerful and moving address on the issues of Mental Health unique to her country, being, as she movingly shared, born as a child of war. 

We were fortunate to have the presence of Professor Taiwo Lateef Sheikh, LLI’s Africa Representative who gave a compelling update on the call for action around suicide prevention and decriminalisation in Africa,  and Dr Naeem Dalal, an esteemed pscychairtist from the Zambian Health Service but also an advisor to Africa CDC, as the anchor of the panel discussion.  

We look forward to sharing more detail from the event very soon including powerful presentations and statements from our presenters and panelists.  These include Stephen Ariel Phiri – Author – “Why People Die By Suicide”, mental health and suicide prevention advocate; Shudu Musida – Mental Health and Suicide Prevention Advocate, Author, UN Population Fund Regional Champion for East and Southern Africa and former Miss South Africa; and Aviwe Funani – Senior Policy and Advocacy Officer Senior Policy and Advocacy Officer, United for Global Mental Health.

We were also delighted to Include in our event four counsellors from LifeLine/ChildLine Zambia who had been selected from across Africa to partipciate in the Youth Preconference held for two days prior to the CPHIA.  Tondeka Mbali, Akekelwa Catherine Chitonka, Bwalya Violet Chisenga and Chilufya Ndondo were among only 250 selected as delegates.  At his conference, 12 of 13 working groups recognised that mental health for young people in Africa was one of the must urgent health challenges.  Akekelwa joined our panellists to strongly advocate for mental health and suicide reduction programs for African Youth.  We congratulate our colleagues on their prestigious selection and passionate youth advocacy.