- Kenya faces a significant challenge, with increased suicide rates. The National Police Service (NPS) has been hardest hit.
- NPS has embraced an employee counseling program through the National Police Guidance and Counseling policy.
WHO affirms that 800,000 people take their own lives annually and many more people attempt suicide.
Suicide has adverse effects on families, communities and the entire country. It has lifelong effects on the people left behind. Suicide remains the fourth leading cause of death globally.
Suicide in Kenya is a fundamental mental health problem and by extension, a major public health and social problem.
Kenya faces a significant challenge, with increased suicide rates. The National Police Service (NPS) has been hardest hit.
NPS has embraced an employee counseling program through the National Police Guidance and Counseling policy.
It has further institutionalized the directorate of counseling and chaplaincy. The Directorate is aimed at promoting the mental and psychological well-being of police officers subsequently improving on their performance.
WHO asserts that for each suicide, there are likely more than 20 suicide attempts.
The good news about suicide is that it's preventable.
The Ministry of Health has been very active in suicide prevention since the launch of the comprehensive suicide prevention strategic plan (2021-2026) to reduce suicide mortality by 10 per cent by 2026. Nonetheless, a lot remains to be done.
Effective suicide prevention strategies require a comprehensive approach and all-inclusive stakeholder involvement. The following strategies are not conclusive but are highly recommended.
Society should provide protective environments. Substance abuse considerably increases the risk of suicidal ideation, attempts, and death.
The government should intensify the fight against substance abuse including alcohol and illicit drugs.
Other stakeholders including families, religious organizations, and employers among others should augment government efforts by providing supportive environments.
The government including county governments should strengthen mental care by improving access to and delivery of suicide care.
The recently recruited health promoters should undergo training on mental health care to offer instance support.
Stakeholders should enhance the provision of rapid and remote access under the enactment of the Digital Health Act, 2023 signed by the President on October 19, 2023.
This would include such initiatives as 24-hour crisis hotline confidential support to anyone in suicidal crisis or emotional distress.
Many people in distress don’t seek help or support on their own. Identification and support for people at risk are fundamental to suicide prevention.
Everybody can help prevent suicide by identifying the warning signs and risk factors. There is a need for nationwide sensitization on suicide and its prevention.
Health promoters and opinion leaders should be trained as gatekeepers in the communities where they reside.
The government should strive to initiate policies, and strategies that encourage investment that subsequently creates opportunities for employment to lessen economic hardships that often significantly contribute to suicide.
Healthy social connections should be encouraged at the family and society levels. Shared and bonding activities should be encouraged at family, workplaces, learning institutions and the community at large.
Social connections reduce isolation, promote a sense of belonging, and foster emotionally supportive relationships.
Suicide prevention should transcend preventive strategies and should include emotional empathy, support, care, rehabilitation and follow-up care for those in distress.
It is imperative to note that suicide attempts are traumatic for survivors and their loved ones. Therapeutic approaches especially the behavioural ones that have to deal with relationships should be promoted.
Suicide remains a complex public health and social problem. It’s imperative to note that suicide is preventable and the government should make suicide prevention a matter of high priority in its public health agenda.
Preventing suicide improves the health of a nation. The government should intensify the fight against suicide by identifying strategies, and programs that address this social problem.
Ultimately suicide prevention should be everyone’s business. It can be noted that addressing suicide requires a collective effort and multi-sectoral commitment.
Eliud Muriithi, Director of Commercial Services, KEMSA