Life is a rollercoaster. Sometimes we are very happy to be alive and be around our friends and family but sometimes we just can’t bear it. The last two years have especially been difficult. Partly because of the COVID-19 Virus yes, but mostly because of the devastating measures that the pandemic came with. Human beings are social creatures, we get life from being close to one another, talking to one another and touching one another. The social distancing and isolation measure has arguably been the most frustrating change we have had to deal with.
In addition to this, countless people have lost their jobs or had their salaries slashed. This has gone on to add to the stressors that affect many people and as expected suicide and attempted suicide cases have gone up in the last one and a half years. In Kenya, the Ministry of Health reported that prior to Covid, the annual average of suicide cases was about 320. In contrast, this year by June more than 400 people had been reported to have committed suicide. While everyone’s case is unique and their triggers different, there are various similarities and common causes. This includes; poverty, infidelity, death of a loved one, loss of a job or source of income, rejection etc. A person considering committing suicide will often display some warning signs such as; withdrawing from others, lack of interest in things they enjoyed prior, saying things like they see no reason to live, having difficulty carrying out basic tasks like showering or eating, researching ways to die, undertaking dangerous risky endeavours such as over speeding, increase in their drug and alcohol use and having extreme mood swings.
It is important to note that no one is immune to suicide and thoughts around it. Children as young as eight years and adults older than 80 years have committed suicide before. Both men and women black or white commit suicide. This is why all of us should have basic skills of handling someone struggling with thoughts of suicide.
Some steps that one can take after suspecting that someone is thinking of suicide include but are not limited to; listening to the person and taking them seriously, removing any objects that they may use to harm themselves, staying close to them while offering help, suggesting visiting a counsellor to them, escorting them to a counsellor or therapist and checking in with them regularly. It is better to err on the side of caution.
Data collected shows that more men than women commit suicide. Among many other reasons a major contributing factor is the toxic masculinity narrative that is propagated of men should not cry or display signs of weakness. This leads to many men fearing to speak up even when they are on the verge of giving up. As a society we need to do away with such narratives which will enable men to reach out for help and thus reduce their cases.
As we mark world suicide prevention week, let us all make an effort to educate ourselves around suicide and reach out to our friends. As it is said, no matter how small, there is a difference only you can make.