Fast track suicide prevention strategy
Wednesday, July 28th, 2021 00:00 | 2 mins read
A report by the Directorate of Criminal Investigations (DCI) on spiraling suicide cases in the country paints a bleak picture of the status of mental wellness among Kenyans.
The DCI indicated that at least 483 people committed suicide in the past three months, with the youngest person aged nine years and the oldest 76. Kiambu County leads in the number of documented cases.
Despite these numbers, however, Kenya does not have a national suicide prevention strategy, although reports indicate it is in the process of preparing one.
Suicide has far-reaching implications on families, friends and communities, and as such should not be ignored.
The World Health Organisation in its report, Live Life, calls for governments and communities to play an active role in suicide prevention.
It recommends six pillars for suicide prevention, including a situational analysis, multi-sectoral approach, advocacy and awareness creation, capacity building, financing and surveillance, monitoring and evaluation.
In adopting these measures, Kenya would be in a great position to determine the necessary measures to address rising suicide cases.
Besides the rate of suicide and self-harm cases, the situational analysis can also help determine common methods used in these cases and highlight causes and factors that trigger the cases to guide the next step in prevention.
It will also help in addressing gaps in legislation – including Section 226 of the Penal Code that criminalises suicide – and how it affects reporting on and support for suicidal people.
Since suicide is a complex issue, a working strategy should involve various stakeholders to allow everyone meaningfully engage and own prevention measures and activities.
This will also help in advocacy and awareness creation, which can go a long way in creating safe spaces for individuals to seek help, identify and support people at risk of suicide and destigmatise mental health.
The government must also ensure it puts necessary measures in place to ensure funding for initiatives and programmes under mental health and suicide prevention.
Strong political commitment will help turn the tide. Authorities should also ensure training and enhance capacity for healthcare workers, emergency service providers and groups such as teachers and judges to equip them with knowledge and skills to identify and support people in distress.
Importantly, the government must address other socio-economic factors highlighted by experts including financial difficulties, unemployment, bullying, mental health illnesses, and social pressures, among others to reduce the worrying number of suicide cases.