The government is lobbying for a multi-sectoral approach to arrest escalating cases of suicide in Nyandarua County even as police say they cannot rule out murders being faked to appear as suicides.
According to police statistics, at least five suicide cases have been reported every month since July 2018, a trend that Nyandarua County Commissioner Boaz Cherutich terms as disturbing.
The commissioner says police recorded 43 suicide cases between July and April this year.
The cases cut across all age brackets between 13 and 70 years old from both genders.
“In Nyandarua County, when you look at the data given by the police, there is an increase in the cases of suicide for both male and female, but the majority are male,” said the county commissioner.
Bishop John Kairu of Jesus Revival Centre admits that men are more affected, which he attributes to African traditions where men are expected to take up many roles in the family and society.
“According to the African culture, men are supposed to play the key roles in the family and community setup. That makes it hard for them to confide when faced with challenges for fear of being considered weak, yet they are overburdened by family and community needs,” said Bishop Kairu.
He noted that during funerals, most suicide victims are described as polite people who never hurt anyone, yet no one seems to understand that they were actually suffering in silence.
“Suicide is normally an escape route after piled up pressures. It will normally happen when one has lost hope of getting a solution to their problems. Women are able to cope better in managing their stress and depression since they openly talk about their challenges. They have many forums and friends to share their experiences with including the merry-go-round groups,” said Bishop Kairu.
Ms Rosemary Wambui, the director of Mama Kepha Foundation, a local non-governmental organisation running mentorship programmes for teens between the ages of 13 and 19 says most young people commit suicide for lack of someone to confide in.
“Parents have failed to talk or listen to the children since they are too busy. Lack of parental guidance, love, and attention are just a few causes of depression in teens, leading to suicidal thoughts. As parents, let us be open, be ready to listen, talk to them explaining honestly why things are the way they are,” says Ms Wambui.
She adds that such dialogue raises self-esteem, courage, and at the end, teens feel safe, confident and free with their parents, and also stop relying too much on information from outsiders and peers.
The county commissioner says his office has raised concerns with local leaders including the county government which runs two critical ministries – that of Health and that of Social Services – in the fight against the vice.
“To address the challenge, we need three approaches, that is, social support in terms of identifying households or homesteads that are most affected in terms of ill health and poverty levels and other factors leading to desperation, this will enable us identified personnel such as counsellors to assist the families, but it is a very costly exercise,” said Mr Cherutich.
The other approach, he said, is the use of the church and clergy who have also raised concerns over rising suicides. Also, Nyumba Kumi and village elders should be trained to identify the vulnerable cases at household levels at an early stage.
Mr Cherutich has also directed the police to thoroughly investigate the suicide cases, saying that some could be faked where relatives or people kill others and place suicide notes beside them.
Like Bishop Kairu, Mr Cherutich says speaking about suicide openly will also help educate the community and advocate for change.
Currently, even at funerals, the clergy avoid stating the fact the person they are burying committed suicide due to cultural and religious beliefs, Mr Cherutich says.