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Myanmar’s communities united to promote awareness on mental health issues and suicide prevention among young people.

YANGON, Myanmar – UNFPA, in collaboration with Metanoia, held World Mental Health Day 2019 Talk Show and Sharing Session in Yangon with the objective to promote awareness on suicide prevention. Facilitated by Metanoia, more than 50 participants, mainly young people, participated in group discussions and experience sharing.

World Mental Health Day, globally commemorated on 10 October, is a day to unite our efforts to improve the mental health of people around the world. This year, theme is suicide prevention. Every 40 seconds, someone loses their life by committing suicide. According to the UN’s survey, more than 79 percent of global suicide occur in low and middle income countries. Asian countries face higher rate of suicide. In Myanmar, according to data from the World Bank, suicide has increased by 2.63 percent in 2019 with a total suicide cases reaching 4,189, resulting in Myanmar’s rank at the 94th in the world.

“We have started our efforts to address this issue by raising awareness on the issue of suicide and its scale, as well as the role that each of us can play to help prevent it. In our society, discussion on mental health is somehow considered as ‘social taboo’, and those seeking mental health support are often stigmatized. This has to change,” said Eri Taniguchi, UNFPA GBV Programme Specialist.

Youth friendly spaces & networks are important for
young people to discuss mental health issues. 
Photo © UNFPA Myanmar

Dr. Ohnma Win Pe, Director & Mental Health Practitioner of Metanoia said, “People are reluctant to discuss about mental health issues openly even though the word itself directly links with a person’s wellbeing. We need to create a comfortable environment so that more and more people engage in the issue to come up with better plan for prevention. Preventing suicide among young people and adolescents, it is even more challenging.” They need friendly safe spaces, groups, peer networks where they feel comfortable to share their problems and issues openly, where their voices are listened carefully and where necessary guidance and counseling supports are provided attentively. 

Laha Hkawng Lum, 21, said, “Depression and lack of space for sharing are underlying drivers to increase the suicide cases among young people nowadays.” Therefore, we all need to break this isolation through working together with young people.

“In Myanmar, discrimination against young people by the elders due to culture and tradition influences on building a better environment for young people and their wellbeing,” said Naw Chit Phoo San, 20. It has negative impact on young people’s attitude and mindset which could sometimes lead to unwanted situations like violence, depression, isolation and even suicide. To overcome such barriers, metal health awareness raising is needed not only for young people but also for elder people. A good practice to work together with mutual respect will benefit for all the generations.


Mental health is still a social taboo subject in our society.
Photo © UNFPA Myanmar

Marking the World Mental Health Day, the United Nations Population Funds (UNFPA), globally, calls for increased efforts to address the growing psychosocial needs in humanitarian settings and more openness about mental health. In Myanmar, UNFPA is working closely with Department of Social Welfare (DSW) and other local and international partners, to provide mental health and psychosocial support (MHPSS) for conflicted affected people, including young people, women and girls, in Kachin, Rakhine, Shan, Kayin and Mon States.

Eri Taniguchi continued, “Suicide is a serious public health problem. However it is preventable with timely, evidence-based and often low-cost intervention.”


The initiative is part of the Women and Girls First Programme, which is supported by Australia, the EU, Finland, Italy and Sweden.