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Youth in the crosshairs as depression takes silent toll

Monday May 7 2018


A man with his hands on head due to failure. Youth in the crosshairs as depression takes silent toll. PHOTO | FILE 

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She always wore a beautiful smile and did not hesitate to express her love to her family and friends, both physically and using her social media platforms.

But despite this, her family says, Zipporrah Wangui Wanguhu, 20, was hurting and she reached a point that she could not face life anymore.

And so in the morning of April 22, just hours after she had been babysitting her nieces and nephews, dancing and smiling with them before lulling them to sleep, a relative found her body in her room.

“As the day progressed we discovered a note she had left for the family in her room. Zippy was a poet, but as we went through her books and journals that she constantly wrote in, we learned that she was deeply depressed. 

“We are all heartbroken that she was in so much pain and could not share it with anyone and felt there wasn’t a way out of the pain she was living in,” a relative wrote in a brief statement on GoFundMe, an online platform used for raising funds.



Those who knew Ziporrah both in Kenya and in California where she lived, said she was a jovial girl who was full of life and always wearing an infectious smile. She was a student at the Newlight Senior Girls in Kitengela before moving to the United States.

“She had an energetic, vibrant and a genuinely loving personality that was contagious making it possible to create the best of any moment for everyone around her. She brought about endless laughter to anyone she interacted with. Many knew her for her Zippy loved to write poetry and songs and was developing a love for cameras,” her family said.

The death of Zipporah who will be buried on Monday at the Sundet View Cemetery in El Cerrito California, adds to the number of young people taking their own lives because of depression, even without showing any signs of being depressed.

The World Health Organization (WHO) defines depression as a mental health disorder characterised by persistently depressed mood or loss of interest in activities, causing significant impairment in daily life.


WHO estimates that over 300 million people are affected by the condition which is linked to the suicides of over 800,000 people each year. Suicide is the second leading cause of death among youth in the 15-29 age bracket.

Depression arises from social, psychological and biological factors and people who have gone through adverse life events are more likely to develop depression, it adds.

Kenya was ranked sixth with the highest number of depression cases (1.9 million) among African countries by a WHO report last year.

Dr Mary Wahome, a psychiatrist, told the Nation that depression can take long for it to manifest in an individual.

“It is not a one-time event. There are people who live with depression for even ten years, and over time, their bodies develop skills of suppressing or coping with it. But this does not kill depression. It will keep piling up until someone can’t take it anymore,” she says.


She expressed concerns that the youth in Kenya and around the world have perfected the art of concealing their intentions to commit suicide, adding that the situation has been worsened by the fact that people no longer have close relationships with one another.

Dr Catherine Syengo Mutisya, the head of substance abuse and management in the Ministry of Health, said it is hard to extract a clear record of the number of people affected by the different forms of depression because many people do not seek help and simply conceal their condition.