Case report: a gambling-related suicide in rural Malawi

Sichali, J. M., Dube, A., Kachiwanda, L., Wardle, H. , Crampin, A. C. and Bunn, C. (2021) Case report: a gambling-related suicide in rural Malawi. Wellcome Open Research, 6, 308. (doi: 10.12688/wellcomeopenres.17333.1) (PMID:34869913) (PMCID:PMC8609396)

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Background: As in many other countries across sub-Saharan Africa, Malawi’s commercial gambling sector has grown considerably in recent years. Driven by the widespread availability of internet through mobile devices, the industry has penetrated both urban and rural settings. In Malawi the model commonly implemented by gambling companies is similar to that used by mobile phone operators. Agents equipped with cellular devices connect to providers’ servers to place wagers for customers and print receipts using simple printers attached to their devices. This has produced lucrative returns for providers. While increasing attention is being paid to this trend, most research focusses on sports betting and there is a deficit of papers that document gambling-related harms. Methods: Here we present a narrative case report of a 16-year-old boy, ‘Wati’ (pseudonym), who lived in rural Malawi and took his own life after gambling and losing money that did not belong to him. As his community is part of a demographic surveillance site, a verbal autopsy was conducted, later supplemented with interviews with Wati’s close friend and uncle, to whom his mother referred us. We triangulated data from these three sources to create a narrative case report of Wati’s suicide and its relationship to his gambling practices. Results: We found that the gambling harms leading up to Wati’s suicide were recurrent, that his gambling practices were diverse (lottery, football betting, digital games and cards) and that signs of distress were apparent before his suicide. Conclusions: From this case report, we learn that underage individuals participate in gambling in Malawi, can develop harmful habits and that their gambling is not confined to sports betting. We also learn that there is a lack of accessible services for people who develop harmful gambling practices. Wati could have benefited from such services and they may have saved his life.

Item Type:Articles
Additional Information:Version 1; peer review: 2 approved.
Glasgow Author(s) Enlighten ID:Wardle, Dr Heather and Crampin, Professor Mia and Bunn, Dr Christopher
Creator Roles:
Wardle, H.Writing – review and editing
Crampin, A. C.Conceptualization, Funding acquisition, Writing – review and editing
Bunn, C.Conceptualization, Formal analysis, Methodology, Supervision, Writing – original draft, Writing – review and editing
Authors: Sichali, J. M., Dube, A., Kachiwanda, L., Wardle, H., Crampin, A. C., and Bunn, C.
Subjects:H Social Sciences > H Social Sciences (General)
R Medicine > RA Public aspects of medicine
College/School:College of Medical Veterinary and Life Sciences > School of Health & Wellbeing > Public Health
College of Social Sciences > School of Social and Political Sciences
Journal Name:Wellcome Open Research
ISSN (Online):2398-502X
Copyright Holders:Copyright © 2021 Sichali JM et al.
First Published:First published in Wellcome Open Research 6: 308
Publisher Policy:Reproduced under a Creative Commons licence

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Project CodeAward NoProject NamePrincipal InvestigatorFunder's NameFunder RefLead Dept
306006Healthy Lives - Malawi, Intergenerational family cohort of chronic conditionsAmelia CrampinWellcome Trust (WELLCOTR)217073/Z/19/ZS&PS - Institute of Health & Wellbeing (Social Sciences)