• The deaths tend to occur in low- and middle-income countries, and the majority of the victims are adolescents and youths aged 15-29 years.
• Most suicide cases among the youth are related to mental health disorders, including depression, being bullied, feeling like a burden to others, feeling less valued by others, regretting being alive, engaging in risk behaviour, drug and substance trauma, guilt and shame.
A 22-year-old young man who had recently graduated took his life for reasons best known to him.
He left his parents that night, went outside their compound, tied a rope around a tree branch and hanged himself.
I know of at least five young people who committed suicide in the past year in Mabera subcounty, Migori.
As far as their families could tell, none of them showed any signs of being depressed or wanting to commit suicide.
According to a 2019 report by the World Health Organization about 800,000 people commit suicide each year globally.
The deaths tend to occur in low- and middle-income countries, and the majority of the victims are adolescents and youths aged 15-29.
Suicide is the second leading cause of death among the youth.
Most suicide cases among the youth are related to mental health disorders, including depression, being bullied, feeling like a burden to others, feeling less valued by others, regretting being alive, engaging in risk behaviour, drug and substance trauma, guilt and shame.
Others are extreme poverty and lack of access to empowerment opportunities.
During last year’s World Suicide Prevention Day, Health CS Mutahi Kagwe remarked that there was a need for a public health approach to the issue through policy, including Kenya Mental Health Policy 2015-30, to handle cases of psychosocial and mental health consequences in the Covid-19 period and intensify efforts to reduce risk factors associated with the health systems.
Additionally, we need to adapt and improve tele-counselling and telepsychiatry services equipped with call centre where young Kenyans can call to receive counselling and guidance, as well as seek direction and instructions on where to seek appropriate care for their condition.
The Health ministry and the public health sector should fully adopt the Kenya Mental Health Policy 2015-30, and develop clear guidelines with intensified efforts to reduce risk factors associated with the health systems.
Similarly, the government needs to sensitise the public to tele-counselling and telepsychiatry services and the available call centres, as well as establish youth-friendly counselling and guidance centres across the county where they can get services.
Ultimately, suicide among youths and adolescents is driven by their intense physical, psychological, emotional and economic changes in their life, and is a silent mental illness as it remains undiagnosed and undermanaged.
This is also a call to fellow youth to speak out. Dark times will come now and then, but brighter days lie ahead if you just hold on and tell someone about what you are feeling.
Find a reason to smile, think about those you love and the pain you will leave them with, and stay alive for the chances of you getting better are high.
Remember nobody is perfect, always accept failure and improve your imperfections. Every individual has a role to play in preventing suicide.
Parents, friends, community, families, religious leaders, village leaders and schools all have a role to play in offering a nurturing environment conducive to preventing suicide attempts as well as appropriately responding to high-risk groups in their communities.
These, coupled with public sensitisation, will help de-stigmatise suicide and avoid being judgmental to young people, always understanding and treating them with love.
The writer is youth advocate at the Network for Adolescent and Youth of Africa Kenya
Edited by Kiilu Damaris