Alarm as 483 s*****e cases hit nation in just three months
Eric Wainaina @Ewainaina
At least 483 people committed suicide in the last three months with Kiambu topping the list of counties with the highest numbers, police data reveals.
Reacting to the report, Directorate of Criminal Investigations (DCI) has called on the government to commission research to determine the root cause of the worrying trend.
“We have never recorded such a high number of suicides before and this is not only alarming but calls for urgent remedial measures,” said DCI boss George Kinoti.
During the same period – between March and June – statistics compiled by DCI indicate the country recorded 409 cases of life-threatening assaults, mostly among couples.
Findings indicate men are more prone to committing suicide than women.
The youngest person reported to have committed suicide was nine years while the oldest was 76 years old.
The nine-year-old did not leave behind any note, but it is suspected he may have committed suicide due to scolding by parents for poor performance in school.
The statistics represent a sharp increase, considering that only 196 suicide cases were reported in 2019 according to the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics (KNBS).
Kenya National Police Service annual crime reports also shows that between 2015 and 2018, 1,442 persons were reported to have attempted suicide.
The data compiled between April and June 2021 by the Department of Operations at DCI, Central Kenya leads with 181 suicide cases, with Kiambu County alone accounting for 109 of the cases.
Rift Valley region comes second with 68 suicide cases followed by Nyanza (67), Nairobi (63) while Eastern region had 57 cases.
Western region had 29 people committing suicide, Coast (14) while North Eastern had the least number of cases with only three people taking their own lives.
In the counties, Murang’a was second after Kiambu with 37 cases, followed by Kisii (25), Kakamega (24), Nyeri (21), Kisumu (21), Embu (20) Uasin Gishu (18) while Nakuru, Makueni and Bomet recorded 17 cases each.
Kericho had 16 suicide cases, Nyandarua and Machakos (14 each), Migori (12), Narok (nine), Meru (six), Mombasa (five), Busia (four), Laikipia (four), Taita Taveta and Wajir recorded three suicide cases each while Homa Bay and Kwale recorded two cases each.
Siaya, Bungoma, Lamu, Tana River, Trans Nzoia and Nakuru had one case each. Mandera, Samburu, Turkana, Kirinyaga and Marsabit counties did not record a single case of suicide while Vihiga County is yet to submit its data.
Gladys Chania, an adult and child psychologists, says failed relationships, high expectations in life such as career, education and businesses have taken their toll on people’s mental health.
She says failed business ventures, loss of jobs and other factors are the cause high levels of depression which can led to suicide.
“Financial hardships, failed marriages and illnesses have left many people hopeless. When people have no hope in life, they can end their lives,” she said.
Chania said of late, there have been cases people who are successful in their careers and businesses taking their own lives due to marital problems while even celebrities are committing suicide due to financial hardships that can also be attributed to living beyond their means.
Police reports cite economic hardships, as a result of jobs and business loses arising from Covid-19 pandemic, as contributing to the depression, suicides and violence, particularly at home.
Kinoti says that failed marriages had also left a trail of suicides, judging from some of the suicide notes left behind by those who decide to end their lives.
World Health Organisation (WHO) rates suicide as a serious global public health issue that is among the top 20 leading causes of death worldwide.
WHO says suicides accounts for more deaths than malaria, breast cancer, war and homicide.
Globally, close to 800,000 people die of suicide every year with an estimated 78 per cent cases occurring in low and middle income countries.
Speaking during last year’s World Suicide Day on September 10, Health Cabinet Secretary Mutahi Kagwe said the suicide rate in the country was 6.5 suicides per 100,000 people and put the annual statistics way below the figures reported in last three months alone.
“Here in Kenya, the numbers of suicide cases have increased in the last several years.
A report by the World Health Organisation indicated that the number of suicides reported across the country rose by 58 per cent between 2008 and 2017. There are 317 suicides reported every year,” the CS said.
World Population ranks Kenya at position 114 among the 175 countries with the highest suicide rates, according to Kagwe who also disclosed that the country was in the process of putting up a National Suicide Prevention Strategy and Programme (2021-2026), which is in line with the WHO guidelines.
Some of the causes of suicide according to WHO includes, job losses, breakup of a relationships or a death, academic failures, legal difficulties, financial difficulties, bullying, previous suicide attempts, history of suicide in a family, alcoholism and substance misuse, depression and bipolar disorder.
Recent reports reveal several college students suicides which are attributed to academic pressures, substance abuse, poor adaptation to college environment, lack of school fees and relationship demands.
For instance, in April, Brian Mwenda, 21, a third-year student at the University of Embu reportedly killed himself over a Sh89,000 examination fee he was supposed to pay before re-sitting 10 past exams he failed in 2018.
Two students who sat this year’s Kenya Certificate of Secondary Education examination reportedly committed suicide in Kisii and Kajiado after failing the exam.
In 2019, a 14-year-old schoolgirl in Bomet took her own life after a teacher allegedly embarrassed her after she soiled her clothes during her period.
In Central Kenya where cases are high, there have been concerns that the high cases of alcoholism are fuelling suicides.
Other causes are joblessness among the youth as well as economic difficulties attributed to a drop in fortunes of farming and small enterprises.