Depression a major cause of suicide – report

Kenya joined the world in marking World Mental health day yesterday

In Summary

• Every 40 seconds, someone takes their own life

• The ministry says depression is the most common psychiatric disorder in people who commit suicide

Health CS Sicily Kariuki
Health CS Sicily Kariuki

Forty-two per cent of Kenyans seeking treatment in health facilities have symptoms of severe depression, a report indicates.

The report was released by the Ministry of Health on Thursday during World Mental Health Day. This year's focus is on suicide prevention.

The ministry says depression is the most common psychiatric disorder in people who commit suicide.

The data shows the prevalence rate of common mental illnesses such as depression and anxiety disorders is 10.3 per cent.

It is estimated that prevalence of suicidal thoughts associated with depression stands at 7.9 per cent.

The World Health Organization estimates that more than 800,000 people die from suicide every year, making it the second leading cause of death among people aged between 15 and 29 years.

This means every 40 seconds, someone takes their own life.

For every suicide, about 20 people make a suicide attempt.

The problem that has existed for ages is believed to be the older people issue, but is now cropping among children and young people as a result of violence, sexual abuse, bullying and cyberbullying.


 WHO says that for each suicide, approximately 135 people suffer intense grief or are otherwise affected.

This amounts to 108 million people per year who are profoundly affected by suicidal behaviour.

The global health agency has urged health workers to help in assessing, recognising and supporting those at risk of suicide.

The ministry report lists relatives and close friends of people who die by suicide as those at a high-risk of suicide.

This is due to the psychological trauma of the loss, potential shared familial and environmental risk and the burden of stigma associated with this loss.

“Research has shown that many people who die by suicide have seen a health worker in the previous month,” WHO says.

Signs to look out for include previous suicide attempts, depression, alcohol or drug use problems, other mental health conditions such as psychosis or bipolar disorder, severe emotional distress, chronic pain or illness and experiences of trauma.

“Suicide has devastating impact on families, friends and communities. Every life lost represents someone’s partner, child, parent, friend or colleague,” the ministry report states.

“The situation is complicated by high stigma attached to suicide and suicidal behaviour and legal barriers that deter people from opening up and accessing care.”

Most suicides occur in low- and middle-income countries where there are huge gaps in health systems and resources with limitation in early identification, treatment and support of people in need

Depression is the most common psychiatric disorder in people who die by suicide

The ministry has urged everyone to play a role in prevention of suicides in the country, either through creating awareness or by showing compassion and care to those who are in distress in the community.