About one month ago, my friend committed suicide. It was a shock to his parents and to me. We, the boys in the hood, were taken by surprise for he did not show any distress in our interaction with him. A week before he did it, I met him in our local and we had a deep conversation about life and future prospects. We shared about the challenges facing us, young people trying to find our bearing.
My friend had big plans for the future, which he shared. We even shared how we can synergise and do something together. With all these fresh in my mind, I could not really understand why he suddenly committed suicide. My mind was thrown in a spin. I could not pick any hint in our conversation that he was planning something puerile, though like most of us, he wore a consistent pensive look.
What looked like a reverie was made real when I saw his lifeless body and the post-mortem report. Nevertheless, I could not avoid asking myself questions: Was I a bad friend. How could I not notice the turmoil that led him to that act?
I have come to realise that everyone of us has problems but we do not share with anyone, even our closest friends. We also fail to understand that what we consider a big problem, may be a minor challenge to another person. We all have those moments when we feel overwhelmed. We have all been there; a time when we feel weak and down. Those are the moments we question the essence of our existence. We reject our reality and yearn for something better.
It is at such moments that the frothy stuff in the glass on the table does inspire happiness. It provides temporary relief and when those fleeting moments are gone, we are back to the grim reality. The aftermath makes us question why we were born and why we have to be in pain. The moment we accept this absurdist view that life is meaningless, we start to question our Sunday school teachings. I have had conversations with my friends who ask if God truly exists and if He loves all of us.
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I have come to accept my friend’s action, Kujitoa. Something in him gave in too fast. He reached his breaking point and thought that that was the best way of ending his pain. He may have thought he was strong in taking that decision in my view I feel he was wrong. I personally feel that suicide is to some extent a selfish act. My friend did not remember that his parents had sacrificed and were continuing to sacrifice for his sake. He did not think of us, his friends, either. We need to freely communicate with each other, share our pain ask for help. Asking for assistance might not be easy but we have to as human beings. Don’t we need each other?
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- Suicide is blind to religious, gender, age or class boundaries
Nevertheless, even to the best of friends, it is hard to tell if someone is going through turmoil. But it is possible to reduce cases of suicide through sharing. If it is true that, we, young people are the future of the country then there is need for action. According to the World Bank, the suicide mortality rate in Kenya is at 6.1 people in every 100,000 with men being the most people likely to take their lives.
Some psychologists say that some young people commit suicide due to childhood trauma. This refers to hostile experiences that some of us go through in our childhood. This, they say, includes neglect, physical abuse, emotional abuse, sexual abuse and abandonment. They say childhood trauma is felt and haunts us as we grow up. How many of us grow up without parental support? Where are our fathers in our lives? This dysfunctional nature of many families does not help us.
On another level, mental illness is real. Many of us are sick. Mental illness is a condition that causes a disorder in a person’s behaviour or thinking. It can lead to suicide. Many of us feel isolated, misunderstood and lonely. We feel that some things should not be disclosed. We fear being seen as sissies. Some parents still feel that we are children and monitor and supervise us including searching our rooms and intruding in their privacy. They even want to choose friends for us. This is overbearing.
From my friend’s action, I have learnt that we need help in dealing with our problems. I think parents who do not respect us and do not cultivate a good friendly relationship with us are a problem. It is obvious that I we can only open up to people who are genuinely friendly.
There is a sense of hopelessness that engulfs most of my age mates sometimes. This is especially true when things are not working even when we are putting in a lot. The belief is that death will bring permanent closure to the pain.
In conclusion, I would want to appeal to the youth to open up. What my friend did was painful. You are not alone in this world. Let us share ideas and create forums to discuss our issues. I have asked my mbogi to create a forum for sharing openly. I should repeat suicide should never be an option.
- Nneka Egara hold a Bachelor’s degree in Film Technology and is currently a part time tutor at Masinde Muliro University of Science and Technology and freelance videographer.