Why are men more prone to suicide in Rwanda?

By Esther Muhozi
On 4 June 2024 at 06:53

Suicide remains a global public health problem. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), more than 700, 000 people die as a result of suicide every year.

In Rwanda, 576 cases of suicide were recorded between 2021 and 2022. While marking Suicide Prevention Day last year, the Rwanda Investigation Bureau (RIB) reported that 82 per cent of recent cases involved men.

Dr. Thierry Murangira, RIB’s spokesperson, noted that the leading causes of suicide include incurable illnesses, job loss, and toxic relationships.

This statistic aligns with global trends. WHO reports that men are more likely to die by suicide, with the ratio of men to women being 3:1.

Several questions arise from these statistics. Why are men more prone to suicide? Is it societal pressure, the stigma of seeking help, or the perceived burden of providing for their families? Dr. Murangira mentions that some men might see suicide as a "heroic" act to relieve their families of financial burdens. Yet, this perspective highlights a profound issue in our societal and mental health support systems.

Additionally, the prevalent mental health issue in Rwanda is depression, affecting one out of ten people aged 14-65. With the stigma around mental health still strong, many men might avoid seeking help, leading to tragic outcomes. In a society where men are often seen as the primary providers, the loss of a job or a relationship can be devastating, pushing them towards this irreversible decision.

The methods of suicide also tell a story—hanging, poisoning, drowning, and jumping off buildings—each a desperate act reflecting deep despair. The statistics released in 2019 highlighted that Nyagatare had the highest rate of suicide cases in Rwanda at 7%, followed by Gasabo, Gicumbi, and Rutsiro each at 6%, and Karongi at 5%. The reasons for these suicides were varied, with 2% attributed to failed relationships, 2% to extreme poverty, 2% to debts, and 2% to severe commercial losses.

Rwanda has several l health facilities, with only three specialized mental health centers: Ndera Neuropsychiatric Hospital, Huye Isange Rehabilitation Center, and Icyizere Psychotherapy Center. Additionally, there are mental health departments in four national hospitals: Centre Hospitalier Universitaire de Kigali (CHUK), Centre Hospitalier Universitaire de Butare (CHUB), Rwanda Military Hospital, and King Faisal Hospital. In recent years, smaller counseling centers like the Lighthouse Counseling Center and Never Again Rwanda’s Mental Wellness Center have emerged to address these gaps.

Recognizing the importance of mental health, the public sector and civil society have prioritized raising awareness about mental health issues and the availability of professional help. The Rwanda Ministry of Health, through its health sector strategy, has emphasized mental health by implementing a mental healthcare program. This program includes purchasing necessary medicines, hiring and training medical professionals, and decentralizing mental health services from national hospitals to local centers, thereby making these services more accessible to the general population.