Alarming rate of suicide among Kenyan students, what could be the problem?

KENYA: In June this year, a student at Marindi Secondary School in Nyamira County committed suicide by jumping into a septic tank.

The Form Three student could not stand the embarrassment occasioned by her teacher reading out her love messages to other students.

Sadly, hers is not an isolated case. Incidents of students killing themselves have risen to an alarming rate, pushing experts to question the possible causes.

Another incident was that of George Maragu Mugo. He locked himself in his single room on the night of October 4, 2014, made a noose using a bed sheet and proceeded to kill himself.

As other families in Kandutura village, Nakuru County prepared to go to church the following day, Mugo’s relatives were thrown into mourning after his parents stumbled upon his lifeless body.

The 23-year-old had not shown up for breakfast as usual forcing his parents to break into his small room where they found a note.

“I am tired of taking drugs all the time, death is the best option to avoid undergoing stress and depression,” it read.

The University of Nairobi Fourth Year bachelor of arts in tourism student had been diagnosed with a psychological ailment and was on medication.

Mugo had however, not accepted his condition and in the note told his family that he could not continue suffering from the untreated condition since it affected both his “social and academic livelihood”.

Other cases that have left parents devastated include the death of Kevin Kipkurui, a JKUAT Fourth Year law student who hanged himself on January 28. He left no note.

Barely a week before Kipkurui killed himself, the lifeless body of Collins Koech Kiplagat, a First Year media science student at Moi University was found dangling from a tree at the institution’s main campus. Koech left a note saying he saw no more need to live and apologised for what was “inevitable”.

A World Health Organisation (WHO) report released late last year revealed that someone dies every 40 seconds in the world due to suicide and that majority of the victims are youths.

In July last year, Kenyatta National Hospital reported about 100 cases of attempted suicide among young adults aged between 18 and 25 in a span of two months.

A research by WHO in 2003 showed that there are more suicide cases among males compared to females.

The research estimates that among those aged between 15 and 24, there are 19.2 suicide deaths for every 100,000 males and 5.6 deaths for a similar number of females in Kenya.


So what could be some of the predisposing factors to this worrying trend?

Unresolved depression among young people has been cited as the major cause of suicide followed by alcohol and drug abuse.

Moi University Sociology Lecturer, Prof Okumu-Bigambo says students feel depressed when faced with life’s challenges and end up committing suicide when they feel overwhelmed.

“Our young adults are not adequately prepared to be responsible and they end up committing suicide since they cannot find solutions to their problems,” says Prof Bigambo.

Moi University’s Counseling Psychology lecturer Micar Kipchirchir asserts: “Young adults tend to feel depressed in response to broken relationships, financial issues or diseases like HIV and Aids.”

Poor parenting has also been blamed for the soaring cases of suicide among the young adults.

“There is lack of proper parenting, children do not have their parents’ input in preparing them to become responsible adults. Without this influence, they end up turning to drugs or committing suicide,” Bigambo says.

Last year, when marking International Youth Day, Devolution Cabinet Secretary Anne Waiguru said many youths are increasingly becoming disillusioned due to disappointing employment and life prospects fueling frustration and desperation.

Bigambo however differs with this assertion: “Life is not about jobs. Others have made it without being employed and that is what our children should be prepared for.”

Addressing the grim statistics of male suicide cases, Kipchirchir says society has put pressure on males who may end up feeling depressed if they do not meet expectations.

“This forces them into drugs, which results in irrational decision making including suicide,” he said.

This worrying trend of deaths among our young adults has also placed the focus on the country’s education system.

When United States International University student Brian Bii, 21, killed himself in 2012, his mother Pamela Bii said in an interview:  “There is a problem in the higher learning institutions. We shouldn’t see so many children dying in this manner.”

To which Bigambo notes: “Our students are pushed through primary and secondary education without adequate preparation for life at the university which is full of freedom.”

According to the don, students need to have positive role models who can model how to navigate the difficult times. They also need close one-on-one time with parents and their lecturers alike as and avenue to release of pent-up feelings.

Drastic all-round interventions need to be taken if Kenya is to stop losing her sons and daughters while still in the prime of their lives.