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Think Pieces

Vol. 7 No. 1: April issue

Ongame molwashoka otse: Reflections on suicide from Swakopmund, Namibia

  • Jack Boulton
February 3, 2020


A recent national survey by the Ministry for Health and Social Services revealed that Namibia’s suicide rate was vastly higher than previously thought. Mirroring global conceptions of mental health and depression, these numbers tend to be ‘explained away’ using pre-determined ‘risk factors’ – alcohol consumption, violence, and unemployment. Yet, current theories of suicide do not account for all of its intricacies; indeed, most are rooted in notions of individualism countered by many ethnographies situated in African contexts. This Think Piece problematises the study of suicide in southern African contexts, showing that notions of ‘unhappiness’, ‘depression’, and most importantly ‘self’ are locally specific and, in southern Africa, relational rather than individualistic.