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Let’s pull together if we are to end the unnecessary deaths

By Geoffrey Wango
Thursday, September 10th, 2020
World Health Organisation. Photo/Courtesy
In summary

Today September 10, 2020 marks this years’ World Suicide Prevention Day amidst the corona virus disease (Covid-19).

The World Health Organisation (WHO) has already highlighted the fact that many people are socially and psychologically disturbed and this could lead to utmost distress.

In that case, many people are likely to experience psycho-pathological problems (PPPs) and this will be manifest in their attempts to cope with their social, economic, political and spiritual wellbeing.

Many people who attempt or commit suicide are in pain or hurt, while others are often trying to get away from a life situation that seems impossible to deal with.

Unfortunately, suicide is highly misunderstood and stigmatised and persons who attempt suicide are negatively labelled. In several countries including Kenya, it is a crime to purposely end one’s own life.

Close to 800,000 people die by suicide related deaths each year. The number of suicide worldwide corresponds to one death every 40 seconds.

The true number of suicides is estimated to be higher because some deaths that are thought to be accidents are actually acts of suicide.

Planned accidents include single-car accidents where the driver aimed to eliminate his own life.

Some people, especially in old age, also refuse to eat or warm the house and in the end die of starvation and cold respectively. 

Some of these factors may not be immediately recognized as being suicide.

A positive hopeful attitude to life grants us a purpose to pursue our dreams. People who are healthy, feel loved and cared for are not likely to feel lonely or hopeless and thus will not think about ending their lives through suicide.

This is because suicide is sometimes a call for help. Many people who will even confess to have thought about suicide may not actually attempt to end their lives when they feel someone cares about them.

The presence of a loving intact family, good friendship, strong social support system for children, teens and the aged decreases the likelihood that a person will think of suicide, nor kill self.

The absence of anxiety, depression, substance abuse and mental illness tends to decrease on suicide attempts.

Suicidal behaviours are often quite impulsive and thus unpredictable. In that case, it is good to take precautionary measures, especially when dealing with persons likely to contemplate suicide.

Actions that can prevent suicide include: removing guns or keeping guns locked in a safe; securing the swimming pool; covering pit latrines and securing building and water points such as dams; removing lethal medications and herbicides, knives, ropes, hose-pipes and other dangerous weapons and instruments people often use to kill themselves from the immediate environment.

This may allow the individual time to think over the matter that is disturbing them more clearly and perhaps choose a more rational way of coping with their pain and hurt.

It is not good to sit back and assume that certain difficulties including depression will simply fade or lift on their own.

Life’s challenges may seem insurmountable though with time they are often visible and may include symptoms such as smoking or drug abuse, insomnia, various forms of addictions, severe agitation, loss of sex drive and interest in activities.

Some people may require life coping skills to resolve conflicts. Feelings of hopelessness and persistent negative thoughts about the possibility of something bad happening in life are worrisome and should be dealt with by seeking appropriate help. 

All underlying psychiatric disorders such as schizophrenia and personality disorders should be treated to decrease short-term and long-term risks of suicide.

Counselling and talk therapy enables the person to discuss issues that disturb them and has been found very useful in assisting people with suicidal tendencies. Above all, everyone wants to love and to be loved.

Persons contemplating suicide can receive a range of assistance from several people.

Family members, siblings, friends, colleagues and relatives can offer a lot of assistance. Pastors of religion can offer help. 

Certain cases require referral to a counsellor, clinical psychologists, psychologist or psychiatrist. Police and emergency lines can assist on where to get help.

Hospitals also offer clinical, psychological and psychiatric assistance including specialised care and referral. —Writer is a Counselling Psychologist and a Senior Lecturer at the University of Nairobi — [email protected]

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