- The numbers are rising steadily.
- Depression, drug abuse and financial constraints cited.
- Everyone has a stake in battling suicide in Kenya.
“Toxic relationships alongside cohabiting among university and college students have led to deeper commitments, shock, demands, and pressure most students cannot handle alongside their academic circles.
This has caught most students off guard whence their final option of compensating their brokenness and weak body and souls is suicide,” affirmed Harriet Kerubo, a former student at Kenyatta University.
She is now a teacher of Chemistry/Agriculture with special needs at Westridge School.
Among young Kenyans
Suicide has become a major public health concern in Kenya, particularly among young people in higher learning institutions.
Recent statistics show that suicide rates among youths have been on the rise, with some of the highest numbers being recorded in universities and colleges.
This trend is alarming, and it calls for immediate action from all stakeholders.
This article explores the reasons for the rise in suicide among youths in higher learning institutions in Kenya and suggests possible solutions to curbing the phenomenon.
“We must accept that life gets difficult sometimes, to everyone, every class of people, rich and the poor, but suicide is not an option to end it all. We have enough choices, hope and opportunities.
Life doesn’t need weak people but needs strong minds driven by the determination to push through pros and cons.
And God is watching your struggles. When this thought came to me, I resisted. I never wanted to die a foolish death, so I resisted,” advised Jared Argwings, a suicidal thought survivor.
The rise of suicide among the youth in Kenya’s higher learning institutions can be attributed to endless factors. One of the leading causes is mental health issues.
Many students struggle with depression, anxiety, and other mental health problems, making it difficult to cope with the pressures of academic life.
According to a survey by the National Authority for the Campaign Against Alcohol and Drug Abuse (NACADA), 12.8% of university students in Kenya suffer from depression, while 23.4% suffer from anxiety disorders.
On the other hand, social and economic pressure has dramatically contributed to most suicidal thoughts, attempted suicide, or the actual ordeal.
“I had no money…, and there was no response from home for about a month or so. I felt I had been abandoned. Hunger is something dangerous. Lack of school fees is something else; it was too much,” said Jared Argwings, a graduate of South Eastern Kenya University.
Many students come from low-income families and have to work part-time jobs to support themselves.
This can be overwhelming, especially when combined with the demands of academic life.
“It’s been tough, especially last year’s May-August semester. My father had lost his job while I was in session, and I couldn’t pay rent or afford anything. I sought part-time jobs, all in vain. I missed a lot of class sessions.
The HoD summoned me, and I didn’t do the semester examinations. It was a lot to take in time; killing myself crossed my mind several times,” said Akinyi, a third-year student at Kabarak University.
Social pressure to succeed academically can also lead to stress and anxiety, exacerbating mental health problems.
“I had to turn to anything, especially mjengo (construction manual jobs) for survival. I had to equally work hard and excel in my academics,” added Argwings.
Drugs and suicide
The prevalence of drug and substance abuse is also a significant contributor to the rise of suicide among the youth in Kenya.
Substance abuse can lead to depression and other mental health issues, which can then escalate to suicide attempts. The availability and accessibility of drugs on campus make it easier for students to engage in substance abuse.
“I was an addict. Being an addict is so demanding; you have to satisfy your cravings and when you can’t do so, your life turns miserable. You take death as an option.
Peer influence is a “chronic disease” among us comrades. Pleasing your peer group is key to avoiding rejection and mockery. That is how I ended up as an addict,” said a student (in anonymity).
How do we salvage suicidal thoughts?
“Most students have many issues that definitely lead to suicidal thoughts.
In my experience as a teacher who is also in charge of guidance and counseling, the best way to address this phenomenon is by investigating the “why?” in that bizarre.
On knowing the reasons behind the thoughts and the motivation behind the ordeal, then we can be sure to keep our students safe,” advised Lyne Ohaga, HoD Guidance and Counselling, Ukwala Boys High School.
To curb the rise of suicide among the youth in higher learning institutions, there are several measures that need to be put in place.
One of the most critical steps is to increase mental health support services for students.
Offering counseling services, establishing peer support groups, and conducting mental health education programs is essential.
Campus mental health clinics should be made more accessible and visible to students, and information about available services should be widely disseminated for student consumption.
Most students may look okay when actually they are not. They need help.
“We can be sad and okay at the same time. I’m going to say that again because in our society, we are taught the opposite, and so its counter-intuitive. People can be sad and okay at the same time,” said Bill Barnat on How To Connect With Depressed Friends, in Tedx 2017.
Similarly, the general public and all stakeholders should address the social and economic pressures that students face.
This can include offering financial assistance to students who need it and creating a supportive environment that encourages students to seek help when needed.
Addressing drug and substance abuse requires a comprehensive approach that involves educating students on the dangers of substance abuse, providing support services for those struggling with addiction, and creating policies that discourage the use and distribution of drugs on campus.
In conclusion, the rise of suicide among youth in higher learning institutions in Kenya is a cause for concern.
The reasons for this phenomenon are multifaceted, and addressing it will require a comprehensive and collaborative approach.
By providing mental health support services, addressing social and economic pressures, curbing drug and substance abuse, and counseling on healthy relationships and relations, we can create a safer and more supportive environment for students in higher learning institutions.
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It is imperative that all stakeholders, including government agencies, universities, and parents, work together to address this issue and prevent further loss of young lives.
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