What you need to know:
- The region that encompasses Kiambu, Nyandarua, Murang’a, Kirinyaga and Nyeri counties reports an average of 10 suicides a day, administrator says.
- Of the 300 such cases reported in the region every month, 80 per cent are males, 15 per cent females and five per cent children.
As the world observed Suicide Prevention Day last Friday, Central Regional Commissioner Wilfred Nyagwanga said deaths by suicide had become a matter of concern in Central Kenya.
The deaths had risen in the past one and half years, he said, mostly fuelled by marital conflict, collapse of businesses and workplace-related stress.
The region that encompasses Kiambu, Nyandarua, Murang’a, Kirinyaga and Nyeri counties reports an average of 10 suicides a day, he said.
Of the 300 such cases reported in the region every month, 80 per cent are males, 15 per cent females and five per cent children.
Mr Nyagwanga said the statistics depict a serious crisis, especially among men, with the effects felt by many families.
“We have a lot to do to preach the gospel of hope in the society. We are alarmed that many of the deaths could have been avoided. We have also realised that we must relook into our policies of addressing mental health in this region,” he said.
Role of mental illness
Muungano wa Wajane official Dr Bertha Gaitho told Nation.Africa that about 40 per cent of the organisation’s members were widowed when their spouses died by suicide.
She said many of the cases stemmed from depression.
"We might think that these deaths are more of a concern to the male population. But what we have is complex, where the broader burden is being felt by families, some very young, left behind.
Mr Nyagwanga urged Central Kenya residents not to hold onto archaic beliefs that suicides are a result of witchcraft.
“Suicide happens even in superpower economies and most of those countries do not have traditional cultural beliefs. Let us not try to escape the hard work of looking for a solid practical solution,” he said.
Counselling for couples to create tolerance and reconciliation, he said, can help to resolve the problem by nearly 50 per cent.
This came as Alfred Wanyoike, the Mt Kenya Business Community Association representative for Kiambu County, blamed the government for the spike in suicides.
“It is the work of the government to rally its citizens to the clarion call of hope and optimism. The Jubilee government policies have failed to induce hope…there is no feel-good effect and the culture reigning as of now is lack of hope for the future,” he said.
“With no certainty in business performance, no hope of the jobless getting employment and insecurity claiming more lives, it is the government that has failed in its fiscal policies.”
The government, he said, had been reckless in its handling of the Covid-19 pandemic.
“We know that Covid-19 is real. But how the government has responded to it has created more problems than solutions. Thoughtless containment measures that have collapsed even sectors not proved to be risky have contributed to a suicidal culture among Kenyans,” he said.
And Talented Musicians and Composers (Tamco) Sacco chairman Epha Maina announced on Friday members’ commitment to providing comic-relief projects to help the nation smile.
“We know the power of performing arts to lower stress levels. Comedy, for instance, can be used as an avenue to reach out to the distressed in their abodes,” he said.
“The mass media can partner with us to generate more content packaged specially to address the issue of stress and strife. A laughing nation will defeat suicide.”
Mr Maina said media outlets should partner with Tamco to increase content use that inspires hope.
“If all of us - family members, friends, co-workers, community members, educators, religious leaders, healthcare professionals, political officials and governments - come together and make our problems look ordinary and easy to overcome...we will be serving our own good,” he said.