Recently, a friend called Alphania Wanjira had a great mental health project called SPARK. Alphania is a Harvard freshman at the moment. (Just saying… Hey there Alphania, I hope you doing great in Cambridge). So just before launching her project, we had a conversation and she detailed to me about her ambitious plan. Well, I immediately registered my interests to be part of the project. So the project was purely a mental health awareness and mentorship in a high school in Kitengela, the outskirts of Nairobi. Of course she welcomed me with both arms to partake in this noble course. Together with her and another friend, we set the ball rolling to carry out this particular mental health awareness to the students of the school for a fortnight. It was an excellent project which achieved the desired results. It was even a greater experience for me because I had never before taken part in any mental awareness sensitization project before. I was a green horn in this this area, and therefore successfully mentoring high school boys in that area was a huge hack. Now, that is not all. There is an interesting bit about this entire story. During this period, I was personally experiencing the biggest depression in my life. In fact when Alphania was inviting me to her project, I was writhing with undescribable emotional pain. Therefore when I took up the role to go mentor other people about the same scourge that was killing me. This was akin to a patient coming straight from a hospital bed to a theater room to carry out a surgical operation or a Form 1 student admitted to school going directly to occupy the Principal’s office on day one. That notwithstanding, I took up the challenge and enjoyed every other day of the mentorship.
Now, it is an open secret that mental illness has become so rampant. I am pretty sure that the person reading this has at least experience a form of mental illness. At the moment, about 13 % of the world population is suffering from a form of mental illnesses. Well, that is quite damning. Some of the very prevalent mental health issues are anxiety, depression, substance use disorder, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, obsessive compulsive disorder, Post traumatic stress disorder. Of the entire population of the world, at least 970 million mentally sick people with anxiety accounting for the highest number of patients affecting at least 300 million people. Anxiety disorders are characterized by persistent worry, fear, and stress that interferes with an individual’s normal activities. Accept it, we have all been anxious at one point or the other, but when it becomes none stop, it graduates from just a reaction to a mental health condition. Depression is the persistent low mood, fatigue and profound sadness. Substance use disorders arise from the frequent use of alcohol and drugs. Yes, you read that correctly. Alcohol and drugs can interfere with normal activities of an individual. Bipolar Disorder is the consistent shifts in depressive moods and maniac high moods. Schizophrenia is a chronic and severe mental disorder affecting personal thoughts, feelings and behaviors. Obsessive compulsive disorder is a chronic long lasting anxiety disorder where a person experiences unreasonable, uncontrollable, recurring thoughts followed by behavioural response. Post traumatic Stress Disorder develops in some who experienced a shocking or dangerous event and have difficulty recovering from the trauma caused. We are all familiar with these characteristics and conditions. This therefore only confirms the general finding that mental health is the worst pandemic of all times. It is these conditions that lead to individuals developing suicidal thoughts and even eventually committing suicide.
Yesterday, the September 11 was the Suicide Prevention Day. This month as well has been dedicated for this similar purpose of Suicide Prevention. However, every day of our lives should be a suicide prevention day. We should always strive to preach hope and positivity to every other person we meet and become the agents of suicide prevention. I believe that the crazy stats on suicide can go down if we all commit to ensuring that our families, friends, classmates and any peers are mentally stable. The story about suicide is adversely alarming. WHO confirms that 700000 people die every year by suicide. This is one person in every 40 seconds. Wait, that when I finish writing this sentence, someone somewhere will be dead by suicide. This is sad. Therefore, to reduce this ballooning numbers, I think that we can be champions of change in our own societies by showing love and support.
It is true that the society judges those with suicidal thoughts harshly. In Kenya, for example, the legal framework has criminalized suicide. The Penal Code Section 226 stipulates that any person who attempts to take their own life is guilty of a misdemeanor leading to two years in prison, a fine or both. In my own view, this particular legislation has become obsolete, is subversive to justice and should be amended. And again, we should never view those who have suicidal thoughts as weak, crazy, stupid or in other degrading ways. Those who attempt suicide are normal human beings with mental illnesses and should be assisted and not criticized.
That said and done, let us spread love and together we shall fight suicide.