“Suicide. It’s something I’ve been thinking about. Not too seriously, but I have been thinking about it.”
~ 13 Reasons Why ~
World Health Organization estimates that 800,000 people die from suicide every year which loosely translates to one person dying every 40 seconds. But considering that in many areas suicide is stigmatized and even illegal thus under-reported the numbers are higher. The thing is, most people have considered suicide more than once (in this case we’re looking at the under 21s). It was reported in 2014 that suicide was the 2nd leading cause of death in teenagers.
This year’s theme for the World Suicide Prevention Day was “Take a minute, change a life.” 4 out of 5 attempted suicides give clear warning signs thus suicide can easily be prevented. You could simply show the victim that you care. Many suicidal people simply feel like they are alone and their situation is hopeless thus suicide is the last and only option.
Okay, so what does this have to do with me?
For a long time suicide has been categorized as “White People Problems”, but it’s here, affecting our children, wives, husbands and even parents. As Kenyans, it’s been an issue that many haven’t been eager to accept as a prominent problem that we need to face. With yesterday being World Suicide Prevention Day, we need take a look at how serious this matter really is. Kenya’s suicide attempt rates are as high as 150,000 with 7,128 succeeding.
In Kenya suicide is illegal, it’s categorized as a misdemeanor and if found guilty an imprisonment not exceeding 2 years is dished out. Many cultures have stigmatized it and cases of attempted self harm are treated as evidence of a curse thus cleansing rituals performed.
Last week, the country was rocked with shock and terror as the story of the Moi Girls School Fire spread where 9 died and 51 left injured. It later became evident that the fire had been started by a student who had been attempted suicide twice before the incident. Reportedly, her actions and words prior to the incident were indicative of her later action. Many may say it was a cry for attention and that may be so but more likely it is a mental health problem.
Suicide is the act of voluntarily and intentionally taking one’s life or hurting oneself often associated with many mental illnesses such as schizophrenia and depression. One thing you learn from past tragedies is that suicidal thoughts don’t discriminate — and often, you only see the signs when it’s too late.
As a parent you need to be aware of the signs of a suicidal person:
- Acting out for seemingly no reason.
- Frequent talk of suicide or death in general. Don’t mistake it for sheer curiosity.
- Engage in dangerous activity.
- Gathering of ‘tools’ such as pills and sharp objects.
- Giving away prized possessions.
- Sudden calmness or joy after a long period of depression.
- Visiting or calling people to say ‘bye’.
What to do?
When you get over the wave of emotions of finding out your teen wants to attempt suicide or after they actually do, you’ll need to do something. But know that you have not failed as a parent and don’t relive the past trying to figure out how you missed the signs, look to the future.
- Talk to them about it. You may feel like that’s the last thing you should do but knowing that you acknowledge it and why they shouldn’t do it actually could help. Research shows that talking to teen who’ve shown suicidal symptoms about suicide discourages the act. The thoughts are now no longer a secret so they don’t feel as overwhelmed and alone.
- Keep away items they may use to commit suicide.
- Enlist the help of a health professional before you do anything to ensure you are doing everything right.
- Be more involved in their life, some teens feel their parents are only in their lives in fact but not reality. You may also find out the reason behind the suicidal thoughts such as bullying, particularly cyber bullying.
- Watch out for triggers. Look out for what makes your teen retreat to depression and periods of silence that indicate suicidal thoughts. Once you know the triggers work to eliminate them or help your teen work through them.
- Do NOT enlist the elders and aunties they barely know to hold an intervention.
- Be informed. Read up on the subject to better understand what they are going through.
Do not feel alone, many people have been through the same thing and some have come out stronger but others sadly succumbed.
“In January an 8 year old,Gabriel Taye, took his life 2 days after being knocked unconscious by peers in a school bathroom.”
“A 16 year old boy, Jamie Njenga took his life after playing the Blue Whale challenge online which encourages suicide. The game involves 50 challenges given by an administrator which upon completion require photographic proof. The 50th and final challenge is committing suicide. The game has taken more than 100 lives worldwide. The teen reportedly messages his friends to say bye and googled how to hang himself.”
“Jane was 16 when she started playing around with the idea of suicide. She’s now 23 and has attempted suicide 5 times.”
“13 Reasons Why documents the life a teenage girl who takes her own life by slitting her wrists in her bathtub. She sends tapes to a number of people she believes are responsible for her death. It may shock you what she went through. Though it may be fiction, your children may be going through it too.”
Please seek help if you are experiencing self harm thoughts or do know someone who is. If you are suicidal yourself you can call 1190 for free and get the help you seek. You can also go to befrienderskenya.org.