Suicide: The silent killer

Every 40 seconds, someone loses their life to suicide.
Every 40 seconds, someone loses their life to suicide.

That is according to a report by the World Health Organisation.

We live in a world where we are told that “it’s ok” to keep things to ourselves because we are not sure how people around us will react.

There have been several suicide reports in Kenya in the past few months.

In Vihiga county, a teacher committed suicide a month ago.

Daniel Ingolo of Hobunaka Boys Secondary School in Luanda took his life because he was depressed after being divorced for 40 years.

The depression took a turn for the worse because he was about to retire. He bought petrol, went to his house, locked it and set the house on fire.

Many times, people around a suicidal person don’t see the signs of someone who is depressed, which is one of the symptoms of someone with a tendency to want to take their life.

What is suicide?
Suicide is the act of intentionally causing one’s own death. Mental disorders, including depression, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, personality disorders, anxiety disorders, and substance abuse—including alcoholism and the use of benzodiazepines, are risk factors. According to an article by Cleveland Clinic, a non-profit academic medical center, suicide rates are highest in teens, young adults, and the elderly. People over the age of 65 have the highest rate of suicide. Although women are more likely to attempt suicide, men are more likely to be successful.

Counselling Psychologist Zakia Rashid says men have higher chances of committing suicide while women have the highest number contemplating suicide.
“For men, once they have made up their mind, they end up doing it unlike women who cry for help and once heard, they change their mind because they have the attention they wanted,” she says.

Zakia says there are many reasons people commit suicide.

Some adults contemplate suicide as a result of trauma.

“When it comes to grownups, we are talking from the age of 20 to the age of 45 or 50 and what we are saying is that it could be as a result of trauma and this trauma could be echoed by for example loss and grief that took place. Loss could be a loss of a loved one through death and someone is not able to process that loss and move, so someone contemplates suicide,” she says.

Traumatic or Terminal illness

It could also be as a result of disease or traumatic disease or terminal illness.

“Terminal illness could be something like cancer and it could be that somebody is not able to deal with the aftermath of that disease and you have to be on medication throughout and they feel like instead of going through it, ‘I’d better end my life,” Zakia says.

Physical or Sexual abuse

Other causes could be a history of physical or sexual abuse where somebody went through that and they are not able to process it.

“For an adult, they may have gone through that when they were still young but then they grow with that shame of talking about it and don’t know how to process it and they may eventually contemplate suicide.”

Mental Illness

For other people it could be mental illness. Mental illness has been a trending topic in recent years.

“When we say mental illness, it could be that the chemical imbalances in the brain for some people may not be right. Instead of having a balanced chemical in the brain, some people may have chemical imbalances meaning the brain is not working the way it is supposed to work for a normal person,” Zakia says.

Because of this, someone might contemplate suicide unaware of the consequences.

Drug and Substance abuse
Drugs may lead people to having suicidal thoughts and suicidal thoughts may also lead someone to drug and substance abuse.

“When people start using drugs, especially when they become addicts, they are not sometimes able to rationalise or process their thoughts well and sometimes when they are overwhelmed and when they are drunk, the only thing they may think of is suicide or contemplating that while under influence of that particular substance,” Zakia says.

“Sometimes when they become sober, they feel like they don’t have any other way to cope and they feel like if they don’t drink, they don’t feel ok and the only way to feel ok is to drink and when they drink they still don’t feel ok.”

She adds that it is the point of not feeling ok and not knowing when they are actually feeling ok, that might push somebody to contemplate suicide.

Conflicts

Conflicts that might arise like family conflicts or spousal conflict may lead to suicidal thoughts.

Lack of finances

Joblessness coupled with many financial obligations can make someone overwhelmed.

“Men most of the time fall into this trap because they feel like people are depending on me and I don’t know how to deal with it because if I cannot provide, this woman may go somewhere else. So all the thoughts become overwhelming and this person might contemplate suicide,” Zaika explained.

Isolation

In the case of isolation, there are many cases of people committing suicide

Even in jail people commit or contemplate suicide because they feel isolated.

“There’s isolation even out here under normal circumstances. Because of their personalities, there are people who don’t know how to interact especially the introverts.”

Image Emulation

Emulating something or someone is common especially with children. Social media has played a big role because most people look at what others are doing and try to be like them instead of being themselves.

There are games which emulate suicide, such as the Blue Whale game which saw players ending their lives to complete the challenge.

“Children have grown to a point of understanding that this is just a game, so when they are told to do whatever it is that they do, they just follow to the letter, not understanding that the consequences are dire,” Zakia explained.

What are the warning signs of a suicidal person?

Talking about it

There are those who talk about suicide.

“A few days ago, someone posted that they want to end their life on social media. This is someone I know not physically but on social media and unfortunately this is a psychology student.”

Isolation

Some people will go into isolation when they get to that point of wanting to commit suicide.

Helplessness

Some people get the feeling like they don’t want to work, don’t want to do anything.

The person could previously have been active in performing activities and all of a sudden this person starts skipping work.

Doing risky activities that are out of the norm

For example if someone is driving then all of a sudden they drive recklessly, they don’t care, they do self distractive activities, this is a sign that things may not be ok with them.

For women, they may develop this promiscuous behaviour where they don’t care and have random sex with people they don’t know.

Giving away belongings

Some give away their clothes, utensils and if you know the person personally especially if you pay attention to their body language, you will note that they don’t look happy when giving away their things.

Some people will even start saying goodbye, like saying “I’m leaving.”

Other people may have anxiety and they become very agitated.

What can be done to help any suicidal individual?

With signs and symptoms that you notice in someone, you can be able to talk to the person, get to understand where they are coming from and why they contemplated suicide.

It would also be helpful if the person contemplating suicide agrees to get help.

If they talk about what they are going through, try and get a solution based on the signs noted.

Family support is important as well.

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