Ruth Butaumocho Column Name
A piercing scream cut through Manyame Park in the early hours of Independence Day, after Mai Mutsena discovered the lifeless body of her husband dangling in the family’s bathroom. As her neighbours trickled in, obviously curious and shaken by the noise, Mai Mutsena was beyond herself with shock and grief. She could not fathom how a mere dispute over her husband’s failure to pay fees for the children and the general upkeep following his retrenchment could have turned tragic.
The rate of suicide in Zimbabwe in recent months has been steadily been going up, an increase experts say might be a reflection of economic hardships and the growing problem of domestic violence.
While most cases of suicides among women are tied to domestic problems with infidelity being at the top, the increase in suicides by men has been heightened by economic strain and several other social triggers.
The increase in the number of suicides in Zimbabwe shows that economic problems affect more than people’s wallets. It is increasingly becoming an issue that is triggering a lot of psychological problems leading to violence and suicides.
Although police could not give an accurate figure on people committing suicide saying the problem was not criminal, chief police spokesperson, Senior Assistant Commissioner Charity Charamba said there has been an increase in the number of people who are committing suicide.
“Suicide is not criminal, so some of the incidents have gone unreported, but we are in the process of collecting the figures” she said.
Last year the Zimbabwe National Statistics Agency recorded a worrisome trend in the increase of suicides across.
A research carried out by Varume Svinurai/Vukani Madoda, a non-governmental organisation revealed that 55 percent of suicide cases in Zimbabwe were committed by men.
The organisation said the high number of suicides among men was as a result of stress related to bread-winning roles and the general expectations by society where men are expected to provide for their families, even in face of economic challenges.
Fiscal realities that continue to bubble on the surface, have seen men resorting to end their lives, throwing their families and dependants in more financial woes and social problems.
“Patriarchy is killing men. Men do suffer and eventually kill themselves because of the failure to handle pressure put on them by the ‘bread winner status’ tag, they have long been carrying,” said Mr Kelvin Hazangwi, the director of Padare/Ekundhleni.
With the adage that “a man should be a good provider,” Mr Hazangwi says men are finding it strenuous to provide, and eventually desert the family or commit suicide, when they fail to meet family and societal expectations.
“The definition of being a good provider is well-ingrained in our society and in the male psyche. In fact, when men lose jobs and thus their identity as providers, they tend to get very anxious and depressed,” said Ms Martha Bwalya a counsellor with a local clinic.
She added that more families than before are being affected by aggregating factors, resulting in the man of the house, getting into serious depression, drug abuse and violence.
“So we might not be able to tell what goes on at the individual level, but what we know is that family financial problems are one of the big precursors that lead to turmoil and potentially suicide,” she said.
Ms Bwalya added that when economic problems mount and men’s fortunes plunge, the result is conflict, domestic violence and even divorce rates increase.
She encouraged people to development effective social structures they can lean on in difficulties, to reduce incidences of depression, violence, drug and alcohol abuse that also trigger suicidal tendencies.
“Individuals feel vulnerable when faced with economic problems, and that alone can lead to suicide,” she warned.
The phenomenon is not prevalent in Zimbabwe alone, but worldwide, with the same underline causes being attributed to increase in suicides among men.
According to the World Health Organisation, WHO, an estimated one million people take their lives every year and most of the victims are men.
Supporting documentation to the study of the trends shows that men are three to four times likely to commit suicide than their female counterparts.
For instance, the global economic crisis that began in 2008, often referred to as the worst since the Great Depression, resulted in increased rates of poverty, unemployment and home foreclosure in the United States and other western countries.
Previous studies that were carried out revealed that when recession increased the number of people without health insurance in the United States, it resulted in increased suicide rates, especially by men.
At least 10 000 suicides that occurred in the United States, Canada and the European Union over the period 2007-10 were attributed to the recession.
While women tend to seek socio-support and even go for counselling that is not the case with men, who after facing economic problems become withdrawn, and sometimes cut off communication with the extended family and the community at large.
Ms Bwalya says the continued job losses could trigger despair among the affected, leaving more people than before psychologically traumatised.
The plight of men as a result of job cuts, shrinking markets and declining production in all sectors is not being experienced in Zimbabwe alone, but across the globe.
In South Africa the job market is on a shaky ground amid revelations that the South African economy shed 118 397 in February this year, marking the biggest monthly loss in almost three years, according to Adcorp Labour Economist Loane, Sharp in the latest Adcorp Employment Index.
Job losses in the South African mining sector-largely dominated by men are likely to accelerate with mining companies such as Anglo-American battling to cope with a global commodity slump.