Perpetua Wang’eri @Petwwang
Martin Koros was 22, when he was found lying on his bed, next to a jiko that had already turned as cold as his body by the time they broke down the door to his bedroom. Martin had taken the pain to seal all the openings in the room to ensure that his suicide plan was successful. “We couldn’t believe that he would take his own life.
He was so young, he had so much potential,” says Fred Koros, his brother. “My life is too stressful. I can’t take it anymore. I am going to kill myself,” Sophie Wambui told her friend Angela Mwenda, several times.
Because Sophie said it so often without actually doing anything about it, Angela went into shock when she received the phone call that notified her of her friend demise. She couldn’t believe that her friend had taken a poisonous substance and died in the night, all alone in her house.
One early Saturday morning, the family of Dr John Irungu woke up to the tragic news that he had been involved in a fatal road accident. The suicide note that was found in his pocket confirmed to his loved ones that he had driven into a wall, intent of taking his own life. These cases may resonate with the other 7,000 Kenyans who kill themselves annually.
Tens of thousands more attempt suicide. Globally, one person dies due to suicide every 40 seconds. Suicide is a growing global concern because as it leaves a trail of negative effects for those left behind by the deceased.
The family and friends of people who succeed in committing suicide are often left feeling guilty and disturbed about the death of their loved one. They may also face stigma and discrimination by the community.
According to Fabio Ogachi, psychology lecturer at Kenyatta University, the daily pressures of life and rising stress levels can be too much to bear for some people. “People who commit suicide often have untreated clinical depression, mental illness and unbearable stress and pressure in life,” explains Ogachi.
People who are diagnosed as depressed experience intense feelings of sadness, hopeless and a loss of interest in activities that they once enjoyed for a period of two weeks or more. Previous areas of interest such as sports, cooking, working, socialising and personal growth lose their luster to depressed people according to Ogachi.
Depressed persons also exhibit signs of stress, such as isolating themselves from others, unkempt appearance and a sense of purposeless and hopelessness. “It is not uncommon for people with suicidal thoughts to talk about killing themselves.
They may also give out their personal possessions, act reckless and try to contact all the people who are close to them, as a way of saying goodbye. Before people attempt suicide, they make a plan about it. In their plan, they decide what to do and when to do it. They also get the suicidal aids required to execute their plan, such as ropes or poisonous substances,” says Ogachi.
The society doesn’t know how to deal with suicidal cases. There is little education on how to deal with suicide. Suicide and death are taboo topics that people steer away from; even when the problem is real and hits close home.
“If handled properly, suicide is preventable. Family members and friends should be vigilant and take action when someone exhibits signs of depression and suicidal thoughts. The person exhibiting suicidal signs should not be mocked, blamed or threatened.
They should be shown care and support so that they don’t feel isolated, rejected and helpless. This person should also be linked to a psychological counsellor to assess them and refer them for treatment for depression or mental illness if necessary,” says Ogachi.
After the assessment, the counsellor may realise the person is neither depressed nor do they have mental illnesses. If they are simply overwhelmed with stress, the psychological counsellor advises them professionally.
This helps them to cope better with the issues they are dealing with in life. “I have witnessed many cases where suicidal clients have been helped to overcome the urge to kill themselves through counselling, and medical treatment for depression and mental illnesses,” says Ogachi.