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How to minimise rising cases of teen suicide

By Agumba Ndaloh | March 11th 2019

Of late the media has been awash with reports of suicide cases in our society. These cases have involved both adults and adolescents. The low and the mighty. Suicide has been with us since the dawn of civilization. However, like all deaths, we are never prepared for it. In traditional African societies, victims were seen as an aberration to the community.

We had little knowledge on what might make an individual to decide that life was no longer worth living. The victim was accorded a burial which was unique in various ways. However, today our knowledge on the causal factors have so advanced that victims are known to be patients requiring medical intervention.

But then what has gone wrong with our society? What should we do to address this emerging issue? Where should we point the accusing fingers?

We don’t know

An examination of the underlying factors for suicide reveals causes that are diverse and varied. However, the major stimulator is mental health. Medical experts have raised concerns over our neglect of this vital field in an age where the environment is not conducive for a positive state of mental health. Mental disorders that have been found to occur with the onset of adolescence are schizophrenia, depression and bipolar mood disorder. These disorders are largely known to contribute to suicide. High levels of stress directly leads to depression and related problems.

With these mental disorders we only need triggers. These are abundant in our society. For the adolescents the first trigger is failed relationships. Like parents, today’s youth has little respect for relationships. To them there is nothing serious in inter sexual liasons. Sex is casual and the more cases you have with different people the better. However, there are some who take the relationships seriously hence if cheated on, they cannot accept and move on. But must one cut short his or her life because of this?

The society places high expectations on the youth. Parents and guardians expect their children to excel in virtually all that they do. Like king Midas in Greek mythology everything they touch should turn into gold. Unrealistic as it may sound, this is our wish as parents or guardians. Can’t we accept that like our fingers, we are all different and we have our unique contributions to make in our society? Teachers too put a lot of pressure on adolescents to excel in life.

Those unable to cope with the expectations usually suffer from exam-related stress. This partly informs the high incidence of suicide cases among the adolescents today. Must we all excel in exams? Are we not talented variously to be able to succeed in life without academic papers?

Poverty levels

High levels of poverty exposes the youth to dire financial straits. Learning institutions today are avenues of parents showcasing their levels of opulence. However, the truth is that our society equally has high levels of poverty. The inequality visited on us makes those in abject poverty to suffer in our institutions. Due to lack of fees and related issues many adolescents from poor background spent more days at home than in school. This a major stressor thus a contributor to depression. It is thus a fertile ground for suicide.

Have we ever thought of the contribution of social media to suicide? Some of those cases reported in the media have shown victims recording the steps they are taking to end their lives. There are also a host of sites which guide people on how to terminate their lives. Whenever these videos are splashed in the social media, how many generate a copycat tendency among our youth?

Anyhow is it just gloom? We can help address the problem. We should pay attention to our mental health sector. Let’s have more doctors and other medical personnel in this sector. We should invest in research and training of psychiatrists. Both the county and National governments should lend a hand on this.

Education can equally help reduce the cases. Let us address the issue of mental health as a cross cutting issue in our school curriculum. We should equip our teachers with skills in emotional intelligence. Let schools have structures which can inspire trust and confidence in the adolescents. We should think seriously on revamping Life Skills education in our curriculum and consider introducing comprehensive sexuality education in our curriculum.

On their part, schools should also think of introducing mentorship programmes and other support systems for learners to interact and share their experiences so as to mitigate any cases. Peer counselors should also be given a trial. Being colleagues, the counselors can easily guide and support those showing signs of the problem.

Of course we have to tackle the issue of drug and substance abuse in the society and particularly among the adolescents. Lastly we should change our attitude to patients of mental health. Let us accept that this is just a medical condition that requires professional intervention.

Dr Ndaloh is a curriculum and instruction expert at Moi University [email protected]



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