Happy International Youth Day. This year, we celebrate young people’s contribution to conflict prevention and transformation as well as inclusion, social justice and sustainable peace.
It is also worth celebrating the youth that have challenged us in our lives.
Let us always remember that many young people have great dreams and ambitions, which some see to fruition, while others fail to live to their full potential when they end up in the grave early.
Tragically, too many of these choose to end their lives.
Globally, suicide is the second leading cause of death among 15 to 29-year-olds. Every year, close to 800,000 people take their own lives.
In Kenya, the suicide rate is 17.1 per 100,000 people.
There are a number of factors that lead young people to suicide, ranging from poverty, unemployment, or at the other end of the spectrum, high social expectations and living in excess.
A recurring factor leading to suicide among today’s youth is depression.
Unfortunately, depression is not the easiest mental condition to diagnose given its subjective element.
This makes it even more important that as a society we should stop directing questions like; “How could you live in the same house with the deceased and not know they were suffering?”
In cases where the depression was apparent to the family, we also cannot assume that they did not take every necessary action to help their beloved.
Often, despite all the help offered, a potential suicide victim is in so much anguish and emotional pain that they just want it to stop.
The only way such people know to stop the suffering is suicide. Mental conditions are indeed sensitive, but even more sensitive and complex is suicide.
That is why we need to have a better and compassionate understanding of both issues to avoid any more lives being lost.
Regrettably, religious attitudes towards suicide sometimes stand in the way of upholding the virtues that the family as an institution is encouraged to hold on to; faith, hope and love.
The lack of a proper funeral for suicides can create an excluding culture.
As a society, we may be too focused on the funeral of a suicide victim being about the deceased, when it is for those left behind to get closure.
It is commendable that the Church of England recently lifted the ban on suicide victims being given a full Christian funeral.
Other religious organisations should consider doing the same. Of course, where the religious leader has a conscientious objection to performing the service, they should be excused.
For us to live conscientiously, we can longer deny that suicide is a silent killer in our society.
If left unaddressed, we will only end up losing more lives, and one life is too high a price to pay.
One of the ways we can avoid suicide cases among teenagers is by having a child psychologist in every school.
This can be a regular teacher with additional training. This will help with early detection of suicidal tendencies and behaviours, leading to children receiving the appropriate care and treatment.
Additionally, training teachers in the assessment and management of suicidal behaviour will go far in keeping other students at ease.
Painful as it is to read or hear that a young person has taken their own life, the media has a crucial role to play when it comes to reporting suicide cases.
Of paramount importance is the media’s duty to report suicides responsibly. But under-reporting the number of suicide cases or making a passing comment on this tragedy is not solving the issue.
Suicide is a matter of public interest and we need to know the magnitude of this problem if we are to deal with it appropriately and speedily.
Let it not also be assumed that reporting on suicide will inevitably lead to copycat cases. Lives can be saved by concurrently highlighting where one can get help before it is too late.
Suicide is happening; let us talk about it to avoid it.
The writer works with international businesses on commercial litigation. [email protected]