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Health CAS Dr. Rashid Aman speaks during a ceremony to mark the World Suicide Prevention Day.

Africa

COVID-19 effects blamed for rising suicide cases in Kenya

NAIROBI, Kenya Sep 10 – Health Cabinet Administrative Secretary Dr. Rashid Aman has said that that the Coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic has contributed to the rise in suicide cases in the country.

Dr. Aman was speaking on Friday, when Kenya joined the world in commemorating the World Suicide Prevention Day, a global event observed on September 10, every year to raise awareness on suicidal behaviour and to promote actions that will reduce the number of suicides and suicide attempts.

The health CAS stated that the situation has been compounded by economic difficulties and feelings of isolation which has led to mental health breakdown in most people. He did not however, provide specific number suicide cases directly linked to COVID-19 effects.

“In recent times we have been going through a very difficult time with many stresses due to the current pandemic that we are experiencing. Our young people are experiencing unemployment as well as heightened anxiety levels leading to increased use of alcohol, break ups in relationships and the upsurge of domestic violence,” said Dr Aman.

In Kenya,  WHO data estimates that 1,408 people commit suicide yearly. However, the figures could be higher due to misreporting, since it has been widely stigmatized.

Globally, suicide is the fourth leading cause of death among 15–29-year-olds, 703,000 people die annually by suicide and more than half of them at 58% die before the age of 50. It was reported in 2014 that suicide was the second leading cause of death in teenagers.

Dr. Aman said that the country has lost many lives to suicide in the recent months adding that Kenya loses approximately four lives to suicide every day. He warned that the trend could get worse without an urgent intervention.

The health CAS called for increased awareness and normalization of seeking mental health care to reduce the stigma around suicide and participation in world informed actions which will reduce instances of suicide in the country.

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Aman said that the youth are the most affected by the suicide crisis adding that there is need to educate the public on the effects of suicide and the its prevention measures.

“This is alarming because the youth are the most productive in our country and our future leaders,” he said.

The CAS stated that the mental health action plan which was recently established by the Ministry of Health is a roadmap for various activities needed to be done as the country works towards a mentally healthy nation.

He added that the Health Ministry is supporting the team tasked with developing the suicide prevention strategy 2021-2026 adding that it is in its final stages of preparation.

“This strategy is a response to a global call by the World Health Organization aimed at reducing suicide mortality through the amendments of relevant legislative framework and policies for effective suicide prevention and development as well as implementation of a data system on suicide risk surveillance,” he said.

Dr Aman called on stakeholders from different sectors to support the mental awareness strategies to achieve suicide free country.

WHO says that there are indications that for each adult who died by suicide there may have been more than 20 others attempting suicide. WHO estimates, 77% of suicides occurred in low- and middle-income countries in 2019.

In 2019, suicide accounted for 1.3% of all deaths worldwide, making it the 17th leading cause of death.

Suicide is illegal in more than 20 countries.

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