Suicide in Kenya among teenagers?
According to World Health Organization, suicide is the second leading cause of death among 15 – 29 year old around the world. It is estimated that 800,000 people die by suicide every year, the
youth being the most affected. World Health Organization estimates that up to 7,000 suicides are reported in Kenya. A lot of parents do not believe that their child would even contemplate or even attempt suicide.
Losing a teenager to suicide is devastating to the family and the society. Unlike other causes of death, death by suicide leaves the family and close friends with feelings of helplessness, self-
blame anger, and denial as they were unable to foresee the suicide.
It is worth noting that teenagers are a crucial stage of development-it is at this stage that they want to get their identity, they want to belong and are experiencing a lot of changes in their bodies, minds and their environment.
Warning Signs To Look Out For
It is imperative to take keen interest in children’s lives from an early age. Changes in behavior and attitude are often subtle and gradual that are often elusive if parents/guardians are not actively involved in the child’s life.
· Becoming depressed and withdrawn- changes in behavior more often than not indicates an underlying problem that needs to be dealt urgently.
· Alcohol and substance abuse- even though this can be as a result of peer pressure, it can also be used by teenagers as an escape route or coping strategy especially when frustrated.
· Self-mutilation- this in itself is an indication of diminished self-worth and intervention needs to be taken early because the self-mutilation can go on without others noticing.
· Talking and or writing about death and suicide-when a teenager initiates a talk about death, it is necessary to talk to them and intervene before things escalate.
What To Do
· Never take suicide threats lightly
· Being emotionally present
· Improve communication
· Talking frankly about suicide, especially if there is history of suicide in the family
· Conflict reduction
· Seeking professional help for any existing addictions
· Unconditional acceptance
In conclusion, being proactive in the lives of teenagers as they develop is an important way of getting to understand their needs and struggles which will in turn help prevent any chances of suicide attempts.
By Patrick Nyagudi,
Chiromo Hospital Group.