Adolescent suicidal behaviour in Namibia: a cross-sectional study of prevalence and correlates among 3,152 school learners aged 12-17 years

BMC Psychiatry. 2023 Mar 15;23(1):169. doi: 10.1186/s12888-023-04646-7.


Background: While adolescent suicidal behaviour (ideation, planning, and attempt) remains a global public health concern, available county-specific evidence on the phenomenon from African countries is relatively less than enough. The present study was conducted to estimate the 12-month prevalence and describe some of the associated factors of suicide behaviour among school-going adolescents aged 12-17 years old in Namibia.

Methods: Participants (n = 4531) answered a self-administered anonymous questionnaire developed and validated for the nationally representative Namibia World Health Organization Global School-based Student Health Survey conducted in 2013. We applied univariate, bivariable, and multivariable statistical approaches to the data.

Results: Of the 3,152 analytical sample, 20.2% (95% confidence interval [CI]: 18.3-22.2%) reported suicidal ideation, 25.2% (95% CI: 22.3-28.4%) engaged in suicide planning, and 24.5% (95% CI: 20.9-28.6%) attempted suicide during the previous 12 months. Of those who attempted suicide, 14.6% (95% CI: 12.5-16.9%) reported one-time suicide attempt, and 9.9% (95% CI: 8.1-12.1%) attempted suicide at least twice in the previous 12 months. The final adjusted multivariable models showed physical attack victimisation, bullying victimisation, loneliness, and parental intrusion of privacy as key factors associated with increased likelihood of suicidal ideation, planning, one-time suicide attempt, and repeated attempted suicide. Cannabis use showed the strongest association with increased relative risk of repeated attempted suicide.

Conclusion: The evidence highlights the importance of paying more attention to addressing the mental health needs (including those related to psychological and social wellness) of school-going adolescents in Namibia. While the current study suggests that further research is warranted to explicate the pathways to adolescent suicide in Namibia, identifying and understanding the correlates (at the individual-level, family-level, interpersonal-level, school context and the broader community context) of adolescent suicidal ideations and non-fatal suicidal behaviours are useful for intervention and prevention programmes.

Keywords: Adolescents; Attempted suicide; Global school-based student health survey; Ideation; Namibia; Suicidal behaviour; Suicide.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Child
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Humans
  • Namibia / epidemiology
  • Prevalence
  • Risk Factors
  • Suicidal Ideation*