NAIROBI, Kenya, Sept 10 – Suicide, one of the symptoms of mental illness continues to claim hundreds of thousands across the world yearly.
Deaths of celebrities through suicide often receives prominence in the media and that has in a way created the perception that is a problem largely for a certain social class.
But experts and available statistics dispute all that; it cuts through social status and even age.
World Health Organisation statistics show that every 40 seconds, a person commits suicide across the world meaning, about 800,000 people every year across the globe die by suicide.
Grace Obali, a psychologist with Nairobi’s Chiromo Lane Medical Centre says many victims fear speaking out due to the stigma characterized by mental illness.
It’s worse for men, she adds.
“Many people out there say someone threatens to commit suicide because they want attention but any mention of suicide needs to be taken with caution. Whether it is for attention or not,” she said during an interview with Capital FM News.
Despite the worrying trend, investments in mental health remain drastically low.
According to Obali, more men have committed suicide successfully but points out that there are more reported cases of attempts from women.
Obali attributes the high numbers partly to stigma characterised with mental illness that hinders victims, mostly men from speaking out.
“Many men don’t talk about their feelings, they don’t express difficulties around them…culture it’s very unfair for them since they take it as a sense of weakness,” she said.
“People need to start realizing that being a man does not mean you don’t have mental issues. Both men and women equally get affected.”
Suicide is the second leading cause of death among 15-29-year-olds, with 79 per cent of global suicides occurring in low and middle-income countries.
Kenya is among 38 countries across the world with a suicide prevention strategy.
The World Health Organisation admits that suicide is a complex issue and “therefore suicide prevention efforts require coordination and collaboration among multiple sectors of society, including the health sector and other sectors such as education, labour, agriculture.”
According to WHO, these are some of the signs someone could be contemplating of committing suicide; threatening to kill oneself, saying things like “No-one will miss me when I am gone” or even saying goodbye to close family members and friends, giving away of valued possessions, or writing a will.
Social media has been termed as one of the platforms experts can use to enhance awareness of mental illness.
On Monday, Kenyans on social media joined the world to mark the World Suicide Prevention Day.
Capital FM Kenya has started an online platform; bonga.or.ke where hundreds of Kenyans share their struggles anonymously.
“We have experts ready to help you once you share your story on the bonga platform,” David Muba, one of the officials behind the platform said.
Here are some of the messages as posted;
Today is world #WorldSuicidePreventionDay. Take time to talk, listen and be there for someone. Whatever time of day https://t.co/CRkGKzHW1n will always be there for you. Safe space where you can share your feelings anonymously without fear of judgement #Bonga #MentalHealthMatters pic.twitter.com/rRVN0dhMQP
— Chris Kirubi (@CKirubi) September 10, 2018
Even the most severely depressed person has mixed feelings about death. Most suicidal people do not want death; they want the pain to stop.
— The Sauce (@TheSauceKe) September 10, 2018
A guy I met recently said him + his boys meet monthly; drinks/food & phones off to talk about what they’re going through. This is after their pal killed himself. They knew he had issues but didn’t see it coming. Maybe more men should try it? #WorldSuicidePreventionDay
— Laura Walubengo (@lwalubengo) September 10, 2018
It's #WSPD2018 today, let's talk about Suicide.
Myth: People who talk about suicide won't really do it.
— PERPETUA FASANMI-PETER (@_iamperpetua) September 10, 2018