Stop silence on suicides

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Author Godfrey Chitalu

…IDEATIONS…GoddyChitty @Large with Godfrey Chitalu

THREE decades ago, I remember returning home and finding several women in our neighbourhood speaking in hushed tones. Although the mood was sombre, no one dared raise her voice and certainly there was no pretentious crying. I immediately knew that there was something wrong! In no time, I discovered that one lady in our neighborhood died from what the women called a sudden pregnancy related ailment. It was only later that I learnt that she had purposely taken her life through an overdose of a popular malaria drug, which has since been phased out. 

Although she sang in the choir, her funeral was low key. Many of her peers peered through windows, fearing to come to the house of mourning in person. The absence of the entire church leadership was ironically conspicuous. Some brave church members who attended the funeral were threatened with ex communication. The raging battles that ensured between family and church needed intervention from outsiders. To date, that family is no longer associated with that church.

Over the years I have seen how poorly handled suicides have separated families from their loved churches. Although the Bible records five clear suicides, the issue of whether one loses salvation by committing suicide is a topic for another day. Many people are either unwilling to talk about this silent killer or choose to mumble about it when it arises.

There are myriad reasons that compel people to commit suicide. Although we erroneously heap the blame on hard economic times, the main reason for suicide has to do with depressed minds. In the past few weeks we have had so many suicides that need collective preventive efforts. How do you explain the suicide of a seven-year-old? Why are marital disputes being settled through murder-suicides? The nation should start worrying about this trend where the combination of murder and suicide is becoming a trend.

One of the most horrific murders is the one that occurred at year end when a father decided to kill his own family before committing suicide. We have had jilted lovers consuming pesticides, killing their spouses and or bringing harm to rivals. Why would someone sort out a domestic quarrel with suicide? It looks like family disputes, marital infidelity and physical diseases rank among the major precipitating factors for suicide in our country.

We need to deal with a sudden increase in crimes of passion in our country. The nation has not recovered from the recent tragedy of young lovers. It seems crimes of passion are silently creeping into our otherwise harmonious nation. Committing homicide against someone you love is not the best way of solving solutions. Although pre-meditation is overruled, most people who commit crimes of passion falsely blame it on sudden rage. Unfortunately, the young student who murdered his girlfriend before committing suicide will not have the leverage to describe what compelled him to take that route.

For us to deal with suicide and suicidal motives, there is need to be on the lookout for some tell-tale signs.

Depression is a major factor that compels some people to contemplate suicide. This mood that causes a persistent feeling of sad behavior and loss of interest in life can be corrected by an active, reactive, supportive and caring family. Most importantly, we need to seek medical advice whenever a family member starts showing signs of depression. I will not talk about symptoms that lead to major depression because they vary from person to person. Any family which is closely knit will know if one of them is being attacked.

There has also been a wrong message the nation has given by isolating Chainama as a specialized psychiatry hospital because many people fear to be associated with it. In essence all our health facilities must have a section that looks at psychiatry ailments. The current economic woes have not spared our people from having mental disorders. Just in case some readers miss the point, depression has also been known as a disease of the affluent. Both adults and children who live in affluence are easily attacked by depression, which has suicidal effects if not well handled.

Drug and alcohol abuse is another principal factor that leads to suicide. Family members can play a key role in ensuring that they stem over-indulgence in drugs and alcohol consumption.

Most of us have grown up with the dictum ‘no child is an island’. This entailed that we were not socially isolated and freely mingled with others. Social isolation caused by multiple factors pushes some people to suicide. Community members can help identify persons that are living lonely and solitary lives and help reintegrate them back into the fold. There are many factors that can cause one to take the route of isolation. It could be death in the family, lack of self-esteem, anxiety and mental illness itself.

Remember, suicide prevention starts from the family. It is easy at family level to identify any member who has suicidal intentions. By the time that person is received at school, college, work and community, the healing process would have started. Concerted efforts are needed to prevent suicide at all levels. People you associate with are the support system that should identify suicidal signs at an early stage.

Look out for IDEATIONS…GoddyChitty @Large every Monday on Kalemba

Author: Godfrey Chitalu is a social commentator who writes for pleasure.

For reactions please call: 0977466284/0963013760 Email:goddychitty@gmail.com

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