New Study Highlights the Urgent Need for Interventions for Youth Suicide Prevention in Africa

by Paul Ngangula, Master’s of Science in Global Health Student, Duke University

In a recent research publication by Dr. Brandon A. Knettel, et al. in the journal Suicide and Life-Threatening Behavior, the authors highlighted a gap in the availability of counseling interventions aimed at preventing suicide among African youth. The article, titled “A profound absence of counseling interventions for suicide prevention among youth in Africa: A call to action based on an empty scoping review,” serves as a critical call to action for researchers, policymakers, and practitioners alike. 

Globally, suicide is the second leading cause of death among youth, with one-third of all global suicide deaths occurring among adolescents and young adults. The situation is even more dire in low- and middle-income countries, particularly in many African countries where suicide rates exceed global averages. Despite these alarming statistics, the availability of interventions tailored to prevent suicide among African youth is critically low.

Dr. Brandon A. Knettel

The findings of the review are striking. Out of 1,808 studies screened, none of them met the inclusion criteria as a youth-focused intervention for suicide prevention in Africa. This “empty review” starkly highlights the profound absence of published research on suicide prevention interventions for the youth, representing a critical gap in our collective efforts to address a life-threatening public health challenge. The absence of suicide prevention interventions is not just a research gap –  it’s a missed opportunity to save lives.

This manuscript includes more detailed guidance for addressing the lack of suicide prevention interventions, including advocacy for increased prioritization of research, funding, and implementation of suicide prevention strategies tailored to the unique cultural and societal contexts of African countries. Effective suicide prevention strategies exist in other settings, but the global community has failed to effectively adapt them to African settings, or to develop new interventions that reflect the unique cultural landscape of African nations. Addressing these shortcomings will require collaboration among researchers, practitioners, policymakers, and community leaders to prioritize the mental health and well-being of youths.  

For more information on this groundbreaking study and to join the conversation on advancing suicide prevention in Africa, visit the full article here

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