World Suicide Prevention Day is marked on September 10 to raise awareness on suicide, its prevention, and to promote conversations and initiatives to reduce the growing mental health crisis and reduce the stigma associated with it.
Globally, suicide is among the top 20 leading causes of death and is a significant public health issue, with an estimated 800,000 people losing their lives each year.
Kenya has not been spared the burden of suicide. In sub-Saharan Africa, Kenya is among the countries with the highest suicide rates, exceeding rates in developing countries such as India and Mexico. Data by the World Bank estimates that in Kenya, suicide rates is at 6.1 people per every 100,000, with men being the highest risk category, with 9.1 men in every 100,000 affected.
According to the Kenya Mental Health Policy 2015-2030 developed by the Ministry of Health, suicide is the second leading cause of non-communicable deaths after road traffic accidents. Moreover, according to a 2020 report titled ‘Suicidal Behaviours: An Analysis of Morbidity and Mortality in Kenya’, there is a growing trend towards suicide among the youth.
The report indicates that the youth, especially those aged between 15 and 24 years, are at a higher risk of suicide. Suicide attempts among this age group were higher among females, with about six in ten of the attempts reported from this group.
Addressing the problem requires a combination of measures including ensuring the availability of affordable and accessible mental health services across the country; raising awareness and education around mental health; building strong social support networks; nurturing a culture of openness, empathy, and supportive communication; and promoting the already existing and establishing suicide helplines and hotlines staffed by trained professionals. Initiatives like the Befrienders Kenya helpline (+254 722 178 177) offer a lifeline for those in distress.
Ms Kathia, a communications specialist, is a Sexual and Reproductive Health and rights and Youth Advocate at NAYA Kenya. [email protected]