Research on suicidal behaviour on the African continent has been limited. A number of sociopolitical and cultural reasons contribute to this situation, among them the political and economic instability that has characterized much of the continent for the last few decades; the lack of available infrastructure, funds and research expertise; and cultural and legal sanctions that contribute to underreporting and misclassification of suicidal behaviour. In addition, the considerable diversity of cultures and religions in Africa make it difficult to give a comprehensive picture of the suicidal problem. Only certain trends are highlighted in this chapter. The African continent is characterized by its unique religious diversity, the mixture of traditional African beliefs with some of the world’s major religions. Generally, suicide tends to be higher in countries in the east and south, compared to those in the north and west, and considerable gender and ethnic differences are apparent. Differing cultural and religious understandings of mental illness and suicidal behaviour contribute to divergent research results across and within various African countries. In the past, suicidal behaviour on the continent was thought to be rare, but more recent figures suggest it is a substantial public health burden. There is a growing need to focus on preventive efforts, with greater collaboration among African researchers and beyond being a key to this process.
Chapter. 6885 words.
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