Address rising suicide cases in Kenya urgently



Some 703,000 people die by suicide every year globally and the Wealth Health Organisation (WHO) affirms that suicide was the fourth leading cause of death among 15-29-year-olds in 2019.

In Kenya, the WHO data estimates that 408 people die by suicide yearly. However, the figures could be high due to underreporting since it has largely been stigmatised.

The WHO further says the number of suicides reported in Kenya rose by 58 percent between 2008-2017 to reach 421.

The report showed that more men were likely to die by suicide than their female counterparts. Out of the 421 suicide cases in 2017, 330 involved men.

Kenya loses about four lives to suicide every day. Research has it that for every suicide, 135 people are personally affected, which means that in a year, suicide affects up to 6.3 million people.

Out of 175 countries, Kenya is ranked 114th in the World Population Review, placing it among the nations with high suicide cases globally. These are just statistics and behind every number, there’s a personality, memories and life.

In Kenya, the rise in suicide cases has been a cause of concern as many people have taken their lives due to various reasons. Just the other day, Kenyans woke up to sad news of the sudden death of Capital FM disc jockey Alex Murimi Nderi alias Dj Lithium.

His death lifted the lid on the increased cases of suicide in Kenya. Murimi’s death came a few hours after Kevin Gesire, a State counsel attached to the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions in Kitui had reportedly taken his own life after allegedly failing to clinch a magistrate job.

Elsewhere, on January 16, 2022, Joshua Bosire, younger brother to missing journalist Bogonko Bosire died of suicide as doctors tried to save his life.

In another saddening incident last December, a 26-year-old woman in Murang’a is reported to have killed her two daughters by poisoning them before committing suicide. It is estimated that around 20 percent of global suicides are due to pesticide self-poisoning.

On September 10, 2021, during the World Suicide Prevention Day, health officials including the Kenya National Commission On Human Rights said economic woes, a lack of empowerment and mental distress increase the likelihood of people taking their own lives.

Dr Rashid Aman, the Health Cabinet Administrative Secretary, said the situation had been compounded by economic difficulties and feeling of hopelessness, which has led to mental health breakdown in most people.

“In recent times, we have been going through a very difficult time with many stresses due to the current pandemic that we are experiencing. Our young people are experiencing unemployment as well as heightened anxiety levels — leading to increased use of alcohol, breakups in relationships and the upsurge in domestic violence,” he said.

Despite these consequences, political leaders and the government are yet to mainstream the issue. The Kenyan law criminalises suicide. Health experts have been urging the government to instead invest in mental health programmes.

The Ministry of Health task force on mental health produced a report calling on the government to “amend or repeal discriminatory and derogatory laws”.

Official tallies

Dr Chitayi Murabula, the president of the Kenya Psychiatric Association (KPA) says the numbers are likely to be much higher than the official tallies because the attempt to commit suicide has been criminalized in Kenya.

According to a KNCHR report, efforts to address the root causes of suicide are hampered by the criminalisation of attempted suicide.

This law as it stands now is a hindrance to people living with suicidal thoughts because the knowledge that it is a criminal offence makes them go into hiding rather than seek help.

Perhaps it’s time as a country, we change the law on the criminalisation of suicide to at least allow the police officers to help families take their relatives or other members of the society who attempt suicide to the hospitals without fear of arrest so that they can facilitate rather than hindering access to treatment.

To the men, they should also normalise seeking guidance and counselling anytime they face difficulties in life.

Jackson Ngari, Student at Rongo University, Migori