MUNENE: Addressing suicide via sexual and reproductive health lens

Young people frequently suffer in silence and are hesitant to seek help.

In Summary
  • The prevalence of suicide extends across all genders and age groups, particularly impacting young individuals.
  • In low and middle-income countries, the male-to-female suicide ratio stands at 1.5 to 1.

We are witnessing an alarming surge in suicide rates in societies, particularly among young people.

As we grapple with the increasing number of suicides, it is vital to recognize the intricate connections between mental health, sexual and reproductive health, and the profound impact this issue has on our youth.

The prevalence of suicide extends across all genders and age groups, particularly impacting young individuals.

In low and middle-income countries, the male-to-female suicide ratio stands at 1.5 to 1.

The repercussions of suicide are far-reaching, with approximately 135 individuals deeply affected by the loss of each life, leading to a staggering 108 million people worldwide being profoundly impacted by suicidal behaviour.

A multitude of factors, often intertwined, contribute to suicide, particularly among the youth, from the lens of sexual and reproductive health including conditions such as depression and anxiety, which are pivotal in the context of suicide.

Young people frequently suffer in silence, hesitant to seek help due to fear of judgment or stigma.

Reproductive health issues, such as unintended pregnancies, unsafe abortions, and sexually transmitted infections, can compound mental health struggles and contribute to the risk of suicide.

It is essential to foster open dialogue and awareness regarding the intersection of mental and reproductive health.

Life events, such as intimate partner violence, the death of a parent, or loss of employment, can induce significant stress, potentially triggering suicidal thoughts or actions.

Early identification and support are vital for those navigating these situations.

Many individuals who contemplate or commit suicide have underlying mental disorders.

Additionally, reproductive health issues, including experiences of gender-based violence, can exacerbate mental distress.

This violence can manifest in various forms, such as physical, emotional, verbal, or sexual abuse.

Addressing these issues from both mental health and reproductive health perspectives is crucial in suicide prevention.

Efforts to combat suicide are underway, with multiple stakeholders, including sexual and reproductive health organizations and government entities, striving to prevent these tragedies.

However, challenges persist, including the stigma surrounding mental health and suicide, which dissuades individuals from seeking the necessary support.

Furthermore, data quality and availability related to suicide and its intersections with sexual and reproductive health remain inadequate.

Suicidal methods are diverse, with pesticide ingestion, hanging, and firearm use being among the most common means of self-harm.

Understanding these methods is crucial for devising comprehensive prevention strategies.

To address suicide through a sexual and reproductive health lens, a range of measures need to be implemented.

This includes stakeholders needing to collaborate with the media to ensure responsible reporting of suicide, and recognizing the role that sexual and reproductive health plays in mental well-being.

We need to equip young people with socio-emotional skills that enable them to navigate the complexities of sexual and reproductive health, reducing stress and mental health challenges.

Additionally, leveraging the existing youth-friendly centres, and establishing more will help identify, assess, manage, and provide follow-up care to individuals grappling with suicidal thoughts and behaviours, while at the same time addressing any associated sexual and reproductive health concerns.

Just the way organizations like The Reproductive Health Network Kenya (RHNK) have their NenaNaBinti hotline and WhatsApp Chatbot used to guide individuals on how and where to access Sexual Reproductive Health services, there is a need to also have other compounding life challenges incorporated in such hotlines.

Suicide prevention, when viewed through the prism of sexual and reproductive health, necessitates a comprehensive and collaborative approach.

Multiple sectors, including sexual and reproductive health, mental health, education, and media, must join forces to tackle this complex issue.

By acknowledging that “it's okay not to be okay” and providing a supportive environment for those facing mental and reproductive health challenges, we can work towards a future where suicide is far less prevalent, particularly among our youth, leading to a healthier and more harmonious and productive society.

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