Tackling Suicide in the Youth [opinion]

‘DON’T worry about the stance I have taken. Don’t let anyone blame you for the move I have taken. It is entirely my decision because I have found that life for me is not worth living. To my brother and sister-in-law, I am sorry. To all my nephews and nieces, I wish you well and hope you will grow to be good and g adults. To all my friends, this should set as an example to you all.’

‘Don’t cry (mourn) for my death. Do not bury me in a coffin. Bury me like a dog because I have decided to die. I am extremely confused. I can’t think. Do not blame people around me. It is my choice,’

These were suicide notes found on young men who had committed suicide. Like many others, the young men did not state why they had decided to take their lives

For some time now, cases of suicide concerning young people around the country have been on the upswing.

Though suicide cases have been rising steadily over the years, what has been worrying is that the numbers of young people ranging from 10 years taking their lives have become quite significant.

In the past few years, several cases of suicide cases involving young people have been reported, although several others, especially in the remote rural areas, have not been reported.

Perusing briefly in newspaper files, stories such as boy or girl commits suicide are commonplace.

Just this month, on March 20, a 15- year-old girl in Serenje district in Central Province killed herself, while a 15-year-old boy of Ndola terminated his life.

Late in December last year, a grade 11 pupil in Serenje committed suicide and in September, a 12 -year-old boy hanged himself in Kitwe, while in March, a 10-year-old boy cut short his life using the same method.

These incidences are just a few of those reported to police and in newspapers.

Why has it become so prevalent for young people to commit suicide?

According to the Zambia Counselling Council (ZCC) observation in 2005, the number of suicide cases in the country had increased due to negative social, economic and other factors.

The then ZCC national chairperson, Joseph Nyirenda, said in Ndola that the matter needed all concerned stakeholders’ efforts to reduce the vice.

Mr Nyirenda said his organisation had extended counselling services to family members of suicide victims.

“It has become quite common almost every week to learn about people taking their own lives. The situation should be treated by all stakeholders with the urgency it deserves,” Mr Nyirenda had said.

But suicide cases have continued to be spiralling.

Suicide cases were a sign of increased unresolved psycho-social problems people were facing, but when one considers that young people are among those that are committing suicides, one wonders what psycho-socio problems that these young people face because these problems are supposed to be faced by the parents or guardians who are looking after them.

In many cases, the young people who committed suicide did not seem to have problems which would have led them to act in such a manner.

Take for instance the case of the Chipulukusu boy, Peter Chitambala, a grade seven pupil at Intulo Primary School who hanged himself to a tree with a nylon rope.

It is alleged that the boy had returned home at 21.30 hours the previous night and when he was reprimanded, he was upset because according to him, he had not done anything wrong.

Copperbelt Police chief, Joyce Kasosa said the circumstances that led to the incident were not yet known.

Peter’s father, Boniface Chitambala said he was shocked about the death of his son because he did not know why he killed himself.

He said the family was still searching for answers as to why his son decided to take his life.

“He was too young to live with unbearable burdens. I am the father who should have burdens too hard to carry, not a 15-year-old. Before the incident happened, I had a warm conversation with my son in the morning,” lamented Mr Chitambala.

A 15-year-old girl who took her life in Serenje District is said to have decided to do so after differing with her parents over her flirting with boys.

Central Province Police chief, Sandwell Lungu, said the girl of Ngulwe Kalonde area in Serenje plunged herself in the river after getting angry with her parents who reprimanded her for playing with boys.

But a grade 11 pupil of Ibolelo Secondary School, also in Serenje district, was said to have committed suicide after defiling his six- year-old niece.

The 18-year-old boy of New Zambia Township hanged himself with a shoe lace when he learnt that the matter had been reported to the Police.

Mr Lungu said the youngster hanged himself in his grass thatched house when he learnt that the police were going to arrest him.

The boy’s father, Remmy Simfukwe said his son had told his family that Thursday was his last day of living, but they did not know what he meant until he took his life.

In another incident, a 16-year-old girl of Chikungu farms in chief Nzamane area in Chipata committed suicide after being threatened to face a diviner following the disappearance of some money in the house she was living.

The girl took an overdose of rat poison after her grandmother threatened to call a witchfinder to intervene in the matter in which she lost the money that was meant for daily needs to the whole family.

She was one of the several children in the home.

Earlier, a 19-year-old boy was battling for his life in the Kitwe Central Hospital after allegedly drinking car battery acid in a failed suicide attempt.

He allegedly attempted to take his life after he discovered that he was not among those selected to grade 10.

In February this year, two pupils in Kitwe terminated their lives in separate incidences after they discovered that they had failed their grade nine examinations.

However, several suicide cases of this nature concerning young people have become rampant and measures need to be applied to stop the scourge which is growing at a fast pace.

Almost 3,000 people, including youths between 15 and 34 years world-wide commit suicide everyday, the World Health Organisation (WHO) revealed.

For every person who commits suicide, 20 or more might attempt suicide and for families and friends affected by suicide, the emotional impact might last for years.

This was contained in a statement issued by United Nations Information Centre in Lusaka in 2007 to mark World Suicide Prevention Day.

The day provided for, among others, an opportunity for people world-wide to unite by ensuring mental illness received adequate treatment and ensuring access to common methods of suicides are restricted.

World-wide, suicide rates had increased by 60 per cent over the last 50 years and the increase was prominent in developing countries.

“Although reported suicide is now among the three leading global causes of death among young people aged between 15 and 34, the majority of suicides are reported in adults and older adults more than 60 years and older,” the report read in part.

WHO partnered with the International Association of Suicide Prevention to ensure suicide was not seen as a taboo or an acceptable result of personal or social crises. Instead, suicide should be viewed as a health condition influenced by psycho-socio, cultural and environmental risk factors for the vice.

What is important though is for families to report suicidal signs once traced in the members of the families to relevant authorities such as counsellors if the scourge is to be curbed.

Source : The Times of Zambia

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