Suicide is a word that is rarely mentioned, but the act is widely performed in our society. A great number of people shy away from speaking about suicide or acknowledging that it is a problem but it is, in fact, the world’s number 10 cause of death.
As the World Suicide Prevention Day was marked on Monday, the World Health Organisation says that 800,000 people kill themselves yearly, one every 40 seconds. In Kenya, suicides rose by 58 per cent from 2008 to 2017, making the country 114th out of 175 most suicidal.
Cases of suicide have been on the rise, but many don’t know how to go about it. Actually, in Africa, it is a taboo to give last respects to people who commit suicide.
The most recent celebrity suicide was that of Mac Miller, 26, a rapper, singer and audio producer. He was found dead in his Studio City home after an alleged drug overdose on Friday.
Alexandra McQueen, one of the most talented fashion designers, took his own life in February 2010, days after his mother’s death. He took a cocktail of sleeping pills and cocaine.
Different people prefer different methods of committing suicides. These include drug overdose (whether prescribed or not), hanging, intake of poison, jumping off a cliff, using a firearm and intentional drowning. Some might go for quick painful deaths, while others would go for slow non-painful methods.
Elderly persons who lose their spouses either through death or divorce are most likely to take their own lives, especially if the two had been together for a long time. Those with a history of physical, emotional or sexual abuse, too, as they mostly have low self-esteem.
For others, suicide runs in the family. But the group at the highest risk is teenagers — mainly due to esteem issues or lack love and guidance.
Reasons for suicide include mental illness (anxiety, bipolar disorder and depression), going through traumatic experiences, bullying, personality disorders, drug addiction, life frustrations such as unemployment or being left by a spouse and also social isolation.
Psychiatrists advise that when you observe that a person is suddenly quieter than usual, you might need to check up on them. Also, if one is very sad or there is a change in personality or appearance, performs self-harmful activities such as reckless driving, is threatening to kill oneself, or suddenly starts arranging and putting things like title deeds and business documents in order suddenly.
“We can not prevent death,” many people say, but the best way to prevent suicide is by taking time to care about those around us when we notice a change in them. Never leave a person with such signs alone, to deal with their own ‘demons’; refer them to a psychiatrist to get help.
We can prevent suicides; the first step is to care. Start now.
BRIDGET ONDU, Mombasa.