This past week I have been listening to stories of suicide.
Many people I have met in the past week during which we marked the World Suicide Prevention Day have taken their time to discuss this important subject, and to share their thoughts on how we can work together to reduce this scourge.
The sum total of these conversations was that we have a huge problem on our hands, and we must join hands to tackle it.
I was told of this young university student whose father died a while back, who was now living with his hard-working single mother.
One day, the student came from university and went into his room. The next day, he was found dead in the bathroom.
I heard about his suicide note in which he profusely praised his mother for her industriousness and dedication.
I vicariously felt the mother’s anguish as she asked herself what she could have done differently to prevent her son’s suicide.
I was told of the young woman who had come home from work one evening, prepared dinner for her family, made small talk with her husband, and then went into her room and took a large amount of a pesticide.
Her husband found her an hour later frothing at the mouth, and rushed her to the nearest hospital where she was declared dead on arrival.
I heard how his life has now changed, and how he spends most of his time staring into space, questioning, wondering what was going through his beloved wife’s mind as her life ebbed away.
I listened to the story of the young police officer who after a shift at work, spent some time sitting in a solitary corner at his local bar.
After a couple of drinks, he went back to his room at the local ‘barracks’, closed the door and barred it with seats as if he expected to be interrupted, and put a pistol into his mouth and pulled the trigger.
I heard his colleagues describe him as a jovial young man with a sense of mission, and that none of them could associate him with suicidal ideas.
I remembered the tales of several of my colleagues who, after a day seeing patients and sorting out their health problems, went back to their homes and took lethal concoctions and were later found lifeless in their beds.
Or even more vividly was my friend who was found in a bathtub in the house she lived in alone, with slit wrists, having lost litres of her blood overnight.
And then I read the story of the poor young girl in Bomet who killed herself after being sent home for having menstrual blood on her clothes.
Some argue that many of the so-called ‘road traffic accidents’ are acts of suicide by some of those responsible; that many of those who take copious amounts of alcohol and then get behind the wheel knowing full well that they could die in a crash might at some level be intent on killing themselves anyway.
I want to repeat what I wrote here last week. A more compassionate world is needed.
And it is possible if we all endeavour to talk more about our deeper thoughts and feelings, and try to understand those we spend our time with.
Lukoye Atwoli is Associate Professor of Psychiatry at Moi University School of Medicine; [email protected]