OPINIONPeople Daily

Society to blame for high suicide rates

Is life totally losing meaning to an increasing number of people? Has the saying that all is vanity, come to fruition? That could be the case, if the growing number of suicide cases in the world is a sign of the times.

In the last 10 years, suicides have grown as a major cause of death for Kenyans. It started with cases of someone murdering a spouse or family, before proceeding to kill themselves. Today, many are choosing to leave alone, if you know what am saying!

According to the World Population Review, Sri Lanka, Lithuania, Guyana and South Korea top the list of countries with the highest suicide rates globally. The World Health Organisation (WHO) says almost 800,000 people die due to suicide every year, with more attempting to take away their lives.

Suicide is the second leading cause of death among 15-29-year-olds globally, with 79 per cent of suicides occurring in both low and middle-income countries. Suicide accounted for 1.4 per cent of all deaths worldwide in 2016, making it the 18th leading cause of death.

We have just celebrated the annual World Suicide Prevention Day on September 10. This year’s theme is, ‘Working together to prevent suicide’. The event is organised by the International Association for Suicide Prevention and WHO. That Kenya has now taken this day seriously shows the gravity of the matter at home. 

The purpose of this day is to raise awareness around the globe that suicide can be prevented. But this year’s theme is ironical in many ways. First, society is fuelling increasing incidents of suicide. In Kenya, for instance, there was an unprecedented 421 cases of suicide in the year 2016-2017. Three hundred and thirty cases out of this number were male.

Although in line with global gender suicide trends, it is a reflection of the continuing and systematic neglect and emasculation of the ‘boy-child’, and men as a whole. While the world expects men to perform their roles as breadwinners and heads of various social and economic institutions, it has disenfranchised them by giving inordinate advantage to women in all spheres.

The debunking of many religious myths is also to blame. The exposé of human frailty afflicting those who have acted as epitomes of morality and bastions of faith has left many feeling empty, and scared of the coming damnation.

How can we stop suicides from becoming pandemic? One of the main ways is to create equity through social capitalism. The cut-throat competition bred by material capitalism has isolated a considerable number who cannot keep up with the Joneses, or Kardashians for that matter!

Catalysed by the media, this inadequacy can make one feel totally inadequate and worthless, and ashamed to face the world with any hope or faith.

But as the wise would say, money is not everything. There are also many incidents of high-profile suicides, especially of people who were materially wealthy. Heirs to fortunes have committed suicide and left it all behind. In these cases, may be the victims discover that in the end all is vanity, and lack any emotional and spiritual fortress to buttress their subsequent ‘empty lives’. – The writer is the Executive Director, Centre for Climate Change Awareness.  [email protected]

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