Self-Immolation in Sub-Saharan Africa

Mwita, M, Ibigbami O, Sukhai A.  2021.  Self-Immolation in Sub-Saharan Africa, 2021/02/03. :87-97.


Suicide by self-immolation is a traumatic and life-altering public health problem affecting communities in developing countries worldwide. Suicide research in Sub-Saharan Africa is limited, but epidemiologic studies, documented cases and clinical reports from South Africa, Nigeria and Zimbabwe allow us to construct a profile of enabling, predisposing and precipitating factors associated with self-immolation in this region of the continent, with distinct differences when compared to the self-immolations in Northern Africa. This chapter addresses the epidemiology of suicide and demographic factors of self-immolators in Sub-Saharan Africa, as well as predisposing factors, in order to determine suicide risk among individuals and communities and better design prevention strategies. Risk factors include access to means, social vulnerability, intimate partner violence, and the intergenerational transmission of trauma. We also discuss historical events and context, cultural and psychosocial factors that may predispose vulnerable individuals to suicide by self-immolation. Transcultural factors include xenophobia, suicide by contagion, fundamentalist religious attitudes, the criminalization of suicide and discrimination against persons with mental disorders.