Suicide Rate Rising Among Youth?
-- So says the Police, though data appears delayed, scattered
The Liberia National Police (LNP) has appallingly disclosed that suicide, a rare cause of death in Liberia, is becoming more frequent among young people under 15 years old in the country.
The Deputy Inspector-General of the LNP fòr Crime Services, Intelligence and Interpol Affairs, Prince B. Mulbah, told members of the House of Representatives (in session) on Tuesday that at least five (5) children under 15 years old in two weeks committed suicide in 2019, and there has been other cases of suicide across the country.
The Deputy IG disclosed that a 15-year-old girl in the Police Academy Community was the first to hang herself for being bullied at school. The second, according to him, was his niece and the third a nine year-old girl on Johnson Street who was accordingly accused of stealing from her mother's handbag. The Police IG also disclosed that a 14-year-old boy from Chicken Soup Factory in Gardnersville, amongst others, did the same during the period of the report.
Deputy IG Mulbah also told lawmakers that Police forensic investigation has shown that 15 years old Bartun Jacobs of Wee Statutory District in Grand Bassa, for which case the Police were summoned, committed suicide on July 27, 2021.
The Deputy IG said the Police has ruled out foul play (foreign agents), contrary to popular perception that little Jacobs died mysteriously as a result of foul play.
He further indicated that an autopsy has been conducted and the results are pending to either validate or dispel the preliminary reports.
He urged parents and guardians to be on the alert for strange behaviors of their children or wards, as suicide among young people under 15 is increasing as compared to other age groups.
The Deputy IG’s response on the status of death of little Bartun Jacobs followed a communication from Grand Bassa County District #4 Representative Vicent S. T. Willie II, for the LNP and Ministry of Justice to give the status of death.
Prior to the revelation by the Police Deputy IG, the Deputy Minister for Codification, Cllr. Nyanti Tuan, also told the House Plenary that little Jacobs hung himself.
Contrary to Police investigation of suicide, family members and some youth of Wee Statutory District, who believe little Jacobs’ death was mysterious, staged a violent protest ‘in response to his death’, which resulted to the burning of a vehicle and causing damage on the house belonging to the father and uncle of the deceased, Mark Jacobs and Ezekiel Konah.
Several residents, majority youths noted to be the instigators, were arrested and forwarded to the Buchanan Magisterial Court for their alleged involvement in the riot.
Meanwhile, the House has voted to mandate the Ministry of Justice to submit a copy of the autopsy report of little Jacobs, with Justice Minister Frank Musah Dean summoned to appear on Thursday to give the time frame for the submission of little Jacobs’ report including the status of the autopsy report of Robert Toe that has taken three years to come out.
Such serious delays and other deficiencies in the quality of reporting on the cause of deaths, on the part of the LNP and/or health investigators, can negatively planning, priority setting, monitoring and evaluation in countries, and to assess progress towards global suicide mortality targets accurately, the World Health Organization (WHO) says.
In its report on Suicide Worldwide for the year 2019, the WHO reports that globally, in 2019, “suicide was the fourth leading cause of death in 15 to 19-year-olds for both sexes, with the number of deaths relatively similar between females and males in this age group. Suicide was also the third leading cause of death in 15 to 19-year-old girls (after maternal conditions) and the fourth leading cause of death in males (after tuberculosis) in the same age group.”
However, the WHO admits that there are varying degrees of discrepancy in the quality of data gathered especially by middle to low-income countries and that, such “discrepancies are more likely to arise for countries where data quality is low and when data are sparse and potentially biased. These discrepancies are best addressed by improving the primary data.
“In addition,” the WHO report adds, “because it is a stigmatized cause of death, suicide is often miscoded. The assignment of the underlying cause of death is limited by the information provided on death certificates, and variability in coding practices needs to be addressed.”