A new project

2 11 2010

By Paul Sonenthal

The past several weeks have been very busy for me. I’ve attended a conference on HIV, received IRB approval for my original project, bought a car and moved into a new apartment. Also, I have started work on a second project that has me very excited.

The topic of the project is attempted suicide and self-harm, often referred to as parasuicide.

From preliminary research, I am astounded at the extent of the problem as well as the relative lack of resources devoted to it worldwide. Mental and neurological disorders account for 13% of the global burden of disease. But one survey of low and middle-income countries reported a median treated incidence of only 0.67% of the population per year for mental health issues.  And the problem is particularly bad among adolescents, for whom suicide is the third most common cause of death.

Although limited, there are data suggesting that parasuicide is a significant problem in Botswana. Some estimate that over 30% of adolescent admissions to the national referral hospital are due to parasuicide.

Previous research in the US has established that suicide and attempted suicide rates are higher among people living with HIV than in the general population. In Botswana, a setting where 27% of the adult population is infected with HIV, it is plausible that the burden of HIV in Botswana is sufficient to have a significant impact on epidemiology of parasuicide.  For example, the increased prevalence of HIV may impact parasuicide rates both directly through the stigmatization of people living with HIV or indirectly through the epidemic’s disruptive impact on the social fabric.

My work will constitute the initial phase of what will hopefully become a long-term project culminating in a targeted intervention to help prevent suicide and attempted suicide in Botswana. Given that information on the topic is so limited, I am going to undertake a qualitative research study to assess perceptions among key stakeholders about the burden, significance, causes and general features of parasuicide in Botswana, as well as what can be done to address it.

Psychiatric Hospital in Lobatse, Botswana. From mmegi.bw




One response

2 11 2010
Geelea Seaford

Your project sounds incredibly interesting and important. Please continue to post reports on your findings and experiences. Thanks! – Geelea

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