Youth suicides due to high cost of living

St Mary's Estate residents gathering at the home of a Form Four student who took her life on Thursday in a suspected case of depression.

Photo credit: Gerald Bwisa | Nation Media Group

The prevailing high cost of living crisis is ruining people’s mental health status, rendering lives at risk. Many families are finding it difficult to cope with their situation due to poverty as low-income families fall deep into debt they cannot afford to repay. Some people end up committing suicide in a bid to get a solution to it.

The number of suicide cases among the youth had been rising rapidly in recent years. Society is, therefore, losing important people who would have transformed our economy because of their great minds and energetic nature in youthful age.

Suicide continues to be a major challenge globally; it should be declared an international crisis. According to World Health Organization, more than700,000 people die of suicide every year. And more attempt suicide, with the cases rarely reported.

The WHO reports that some 77 per cent of suicides occur in low- and middle-income countries, a category in which Kenya falls.

The Covid-19 pandemic acted as a catalyst to suicide. The government measures that were meant to curb the spread of the coronavirus interfered with the global economy as more funds were invested into fighting the pandemic. Lockdowns and movement restrictions hindered socioeconomic duties, rendering many people jobless.

The ongoing Russian invasion of Ukraine increased the suffering due to the increasing cost of living . Many families sleep hungry, unable to afford food and other essentials. The children have a stressful home environment as such families lack access to vital infrastructure—like schools and hospital—and life continues. Until the youth decide to kill themselves so that they can ‘rest’ and stop the suffering.

Indeed, young people are taking their lives for things that we are able to fix. Is it so difficult for the government to strategise on eradicating poverty and reducing the cost of living, which cause almost every suicide? Yes, there are other factors that may lead to suicide, such as break-ups in romantic relationships and chronic diseases, but let’s first deal with the major one: Poverty and high cost of living.

Young people go through the education system with huge expectations of being successful in life. Bear in mind the universal advice that education is the key; that it is the requirement to avoid poverty and lead a good life. But what is happening is contrary to their expectations and some have, sadly, resolved to die.

The high cost of living, which is increasing at a rate that we had not experienced in decades, is pushing millions of youth to chilling depths of poverty, despair and destruction, which greatly interferes with their mental health. Many Kenyans are squeezed into a corner and can no longer make ends meet.

If the suicide rate is to be diminished, the authorities must take the crucial and effective steps to fight poverty and lower the cost of living. I call upon the incoming administration to develop and implement a safety net strategy as the basis for building strong financial and political support for a poverty reduction agenda.

A safety net based on careful analysis of the needs of Kenyans should be introduced to ensure that regular support is rendered to the people in chronic abject poverty and also provide assistance to vulnerable households.

I assure the country that if we fix the issues around poverty and the high cost of living, we will be able to save the beautiful souls of young people perishing in the dark void of death by suicide.

Samwel Obegi, Migori