The Reality of Suicide in Kenya

“This is a black day for me, a day I will never forget, my brother took his own life and I have to let him go. I will never see him again. This is the darkest day of my life.”

Watching BBC AFRICA EYE “Suicide Stories” and listening to stories narrated by people affected directly by suicide as well as survivors, is ultimately eye- opening.

Peter Murimi tries to find out why almost 70 people, most of them being men, kill themselves every year. He spoke with three people about their experiences with suicide.

PETER: Tell us how it happened?

PERSON A: I was called in the morning and when I came, I found my brother hanging from a tree.

PETER: Did you know depression is like any other form of illness?

PERSON B: I have seen many people who are depressed but they don’t look sick, we just think they have reached their limit. That’s why they choose to commit suicide.

PETER: How did you survive suicide?

PERSON C: I woke up, went to fetch firewood and found my dad hanging. Seeing as my dad was our only hope, when I saw that, nothing else came to mind but suicide. I got hold of rat poison and wrote a suicide note but was found by the police before harming myself.

In Kenya, an estimated 311 people commit suicide yearly, recording 77 women and 240 men according to the Standard Extract report. Reports also have it that Central Kenya is the leading in suicide deaths with at least 5 deaths daily. Considering the fact suicide is criminalized in Kenya, and under reporting and misreporting of suicide related deaths is common, coming up with accurate findings can be a challenge. Stigmatization may also hinder coming up with official numbers. The facts, however, remain. That suicide is criminalized, it is under reported, that it has been marked as one of the leading causes of death in Kenya, especially among the youth.

You might ask yourselves why all this is happening.

I will summarize it for you:

  1. Mental disorders and substance abuse- mental health disorders such as depression and schizophrenia may influence suicide. Not only does substance abuse impair our judgment or functioning but also increase the duration and severity of mental disorders therefore making one more susceptible.
  2. Family factors- factors such as history of mental illnesses among immediate family members may influence suicide. Other factors such as conflicts, violence, poverty, divorce, death, sibling rivalry and inheritance issues may trigger suicide.
  3. Life events- events such as death, rejection, break ups or even being diagnosed with a terminal illness may affect how one copes and have a negative impact on a person’s wellbeing. This may trigger suicide.
  4. Personality traits- impulsivity is highly linked to suicide. Poor decision making and problem solving skills may also be a factor in someone’s personality traits. A difficulty in this can create interpersonal conflict and influence suicidal ideation.
  5. Modelling-this can be seen among the young. Learning by modelling is a thing they do and if they are exposed to an inspiring model who has suicidal threats, and or media that has suicidal content, they may be influenced to do the same.
  6. Stigma- any suicidal person needs someone to listen to them. On the other hand, mental health issues have been stigmatized in our society. This makes it hard for people to reach out and seek help. Especially for mean as they are viewed as the strong gender and being vulnerable for them has almost been criminalized.
  7. Availability of means- the availability of lethal means to actualize the act is very common and this makes people more prone to commit suicide.

What should we do?

Here are 10 tips to help prevent suicide as a NATION:

  1. Normalize the suicide conversation, break the stigma.
  2. Create awareness on mental health and substance abuse.
  3. Emphasize on the need to reach out to someone when need be.
  4. Prioritize self-care.
  5. Practice mindfulness to help you become more self-aware.
  6. Take any suicidal thoughts and threats seriously
  7. Check for warning signs.
  8. Change how the media portrays suicide.
  9. Encourage interaction and good communication within the family setting.
  10. Improve mental health treatment for people.

All things considered, it is important for us, as a country to recognize the alarming rate at which we are losing our people to suicide, the risk factors or possible causes of suicide and how to counter attack this silent monster so as to safeguard our well-being.

By: Tiffany Ndei

1 Comment

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    George Gitonga

    October 7, 2021 - 9:11 am

    this is very insightful.i am a counselor and i meet such clients quite often
    kudos.

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