Mental health issues are behind rising cases of murder-suicides

ELIAS MOKUA |
Incidents of parents taking their lives together with the lives of their own children are on the increase. iStockphoto]

Mental health is a pre-condition for a healthy nation. Citizens need to be mentally and physically healthy to bring up a healthy young generation. We understand, for instance, that countries caught up in conflicts have to deal with the long-term effects of war on citizens. Similarly, communities suffering from economic and social inequalities have many cases of mental health problems.

Incidents of parents taking their lives together with the lives of their own children are on the increase. Something is amiss in our society. By the time an adult contemplates taking his/her own life, one would have to be mentally crushed. The person reaches a conclusion that there are no other options left to explore except killing themself. The world, in the mind of someone considering death as an option, is impenetrable for solutions. Everything, everyone, everywhere seems unfriendly, unsupportive, and judgmental. In brief, the world turns out to be cruel, unresponsive and therefore inhabitable.

When existential fears persist, life starts to become meaningless. People begin to question whether they actually have reason to continue battling what they see as insurmountable challenges. Further, when expectations are set too high to meet, frustrations set in. Matching expectations with social reality is not as easy as explained on paper.

Everyone has a unique background on which expectations are set. Families, friends, communities and even strangers contribute to the formation of a person’s background and therefore the expectations one sets up for self. Mental health problems begin when the internal world, call it expectations, is not matched with the external reality.

Sour relationships, money and excessive drinking top reasons why people take their own lives. Nevertheless, we know from psychology that these are symptoms of a deeper intrapersonal crisis. People, who kill in the name of betrayal, have deep down themselves severe ontological insecurities. Resource-based conflicts are essentially about greed. Loss of lives due to excessive drinking indicates intrapersonal or interpersonal unaddressed problems or grievances. In recent times, poverty is emerging as another factor.

Obviously, when clouds gather in one’s mind to a point of taking own life, as a society we are left with scars of guilt on whether individually or collectively we could have done anything at all to save the lost life. Even when such incidents happen too far away for us to be affected, at least emotionally, we still sit back with depressed faces.

Regardless of what factors trigger mental health challenges, families and friends are very important in timely spotting and supporting persons losing hope in life. Families that have strong ties spot and manage mental health issues before escalating. In the absence of this, friends are the second most important life-savers. Additionally, counselling services, whenever accessible, play an important role in the reduction of people losing hope in life.

Most of us know what voter apathy means but not spiritual apathy. Just as voter apathy tells us about voter behaviour, that is, voters becoming indifferent, uncommitted and emotionally distanced from election processes and outcomes, spiritual apathy is about persons who are uncommitted, untouched, cold and emotionally indifferent to God’s presence in their lives.

In a country where a majority of us professes faith in God, spirituality gives hope even at the darkest hour. Outside that, spiritual apathy takes over to give credence to predestination – the belief that God decides the day and hour of everyone’s death.

One of the most reliable cures for mental health is psycho-spiritual counselling. Rooting families and communities in God are important in preparing them to deal with overwhelming experiences that come with a devastating sense of helplessness.

This works best if someone already has a foundational faith in God. Indicatively, religious institutions are best placed to fight spiritual apathy to help individuals navigate turbulences of life.

Dr Mokua is Executive Director, Loyola Centre for Media and Communication.  

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