As we mark the World Suicide Prevention Day today, there is need for Kenya do a serious introspection. The rising number of suicides is a matter of great concern.
According to the Kenya Bureau of Statistics, 421 people committed suicide in Kenya in 2018. WHO, on the other hand, estimates that 1,408 people commit suicide in the country every year.
The World Population Review ranks Kenya at position 114 out 175 countries with the highest suicide rates.
While widespread poverty, substance abuse and family feuds are usually cited as some of the reasons people commit suicide, there is consensus that the underlying issue is mental health.
In fact, experts have warned that the number of suicides are on the increase owing to frustrations caused by the Covid-19 pandemic.
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The problem in Kenya is that few people with mental health problems get the necessary professional help. Kenya has inadequate mental health facilities and most, especially the public ones, are in a pathetic state.
To compound matters, the country has only 88 consultant psychiatrists and 500 psychiatric nurses serving 47 million people. This is unacceptable.
Simply put, while the Kenya health system is on the sickbed, mental healthcare is in the intensive care. We need to change this sorry situation especially considering the magnitude of the problem; one in every four Kenyans suffers from mental ill health in their lifetime, according to the Kenya Mental Health Policy 2015-2030.
If the government is serious about addressing the worrying number of suicides, it should start by improving the state of mental healthcare.