It doesn’t require a lot of research to discover just how troubled we are as a people. A quick look at the social media feeds and you will see how people are going through stress, depression and even suicidal thoughts. Suicide is, unfortunately, becoming a norm in our society, cases of individuals taking their lives are mourned momentarily until the next trend comes along. We forget too easily.
Studies show that seven in a hundred thousand people here in Kenya commit suicide. That’s a worrying statistic, one that has been on a steady rise in the last few years. At one point, 451 people committed suicide in one year with 353 being men. Men are more likely to commit suicide than women, maybe there is truth to the narrative of men being too proud to talk out their issues.
We have all probably come into contact with a suicidal person; either directly or indirectly. The most common place where suicidal behaviour can be found is on social media. Typing behind a keyboard brings with it courage and vulnerability that people wouldn’t normally have. This is why it is the safest place for suicidal people to express themselves and talk about their struggles. Their posts are actual cries for help, they write with heavy hearts longing for someone to rescue them from the bottomless pits of despair that they are usually in.
Ignorance is a dangerous thing. It causes us to verbally abuse these people and say things that act as triggers that sometimes push them off the ledge. It is difficult to comprehend why someone would intentionally wish harm to the next man. A big part of why we are ignorant about the facts of suicide is because we do not understand it, the only knowledge we have is based on myths and misconceptions. Myths we should work hard to demystify. Mental Health: Why We Need To Decriminalize Suicide Attempts In Kenya
One of the most common myths about suicidal people is that they are attention seekers. It is said that “sadness sells”; people gravitate and relate more to sad things than they do to happy things; it’s a human flaw. Maybe this is why it is easy to assume that a person is talking about something sad merely to attract the attention of their audience. Most times, however, talking about death or suicide is a person’s way to say they need emotional support. These indicators should be taken very seriously.
It is common to refer to suicidal people as weak or selfish. Outsiders often wonder why one person would hold their friends and family hostage in such a way. “Toughen up!”, they often say. But it is easy to be critical of someone else’s pain and decisions from afar. A little empathy and understanding is the real difference between giving adequate support and being insensitive. Suicidal people are often strained emotionally and feel as though taking their lives is the only option they have; their only way to stop the pain. They are not weak, they are desperate.
The words “Mental condition” are often thrown around quite casually that the meaning is sometimes misunderstood. Not all suicidal people have mental issues. Some of them are simply trying to find an escape from certain aspects of their lives. It is not always about depression, anxiety or mood disorders. Sometimes it is about money, other times it’s substance abuse, or dysfunctional relationships. Next time you encounter a person who is contemplating suicide, don’t be quick to diagnose a mental condition. Health: Myths And Misconceptions Associated With Mental Health
Finally, let us give people the opportunity to heal from their painful wounds. Let us not become the ghosts from the past that constantly remind guys that they once attempted or thought about suicide. An old saying states that “one mistake is not sufficient to make a law”. Just because a person slipped off to the deep end once doesn’t mean that suicide will be the solution they run towards every time.
Brian Muchiri is a passionate writer who draws his inspiration from the experiences in his own life and of those around him. He is candid and he seeks to inspire society to be more pro active and vocal about the social issues that affect us. Brian is also actively involved in pushing for awareness and inclusion of people with disabilities through his foundation; Strong Spine.