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Uncovering the Alarming Rise of Suicide Cases in Nairobi City

By Bonface Onsongo.

The first three months of 2023 have witnessed a disheartening increase in suicide cases, particularly among men, according to data obtained from Nairobi’s City Mortuary. Out of a total of 24 recorded suicides during this period, three-quarters of the victims were men.

A visit to the City Mortuary in Nairobi can be an emotionally challenging experience for anyone, as it confronts individuals with death and the physical remnants of those who have passed away. Acknowledging this sensitivity, I met with an anonymous attendant who provided fixed data but did not grant access to the records themselves. Our conversation took place outside the mortuary, mindful of ongoing activities.

 I am ushered in by one of the attendant, whom we agreed not to mention his name because he is not authorized to speak to the media. This journey took me almost three weeks. He requested that we speak from outside the room as other activities were busy ongoing.

 After introducing myself formally, he told me that he will only manage to give me fixed data, without allowing me to even see or touch the black book with all the records. He went in and for around 3o mins he came back with a piece of paper with 24 names of person alleged to have committed suicide. 

The data revealed that, in the first quarter of 2023, 24 cases of suicide were documented. Of these, 19 were men, three were women, and the details of the remaining two were unknown. Supporting this troubling trend, an economic survey by the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics (KNBS) for the years 2017 to 2020 indicated that the number of male suicides exceeded that of females, with 775 men compared to 282 women taking their own lives. These figures suggest a three-fold higher rate of male suicides.

Among the impacted areas is Kawangware, one of Kenya’s largest informal settlements, located approximately 15 km west of Nairobi city. With a population of 133,286 according to the 2019 census, Kawangware has become a focal point for examining the distressing consequences of suicide. During my visit to the area, I met with Abraham Menoti, a 28-year-old resident of Soko Mjinga village.

Menoti shared a heartbreaking story of his cousin’s suicide by poison. His cousin had relocated to Nairobi in search of employment, but faced overwhelming stress during the COVID-19 pandemic. Menoti explained, “Most of the time I don’t like talking about this story because it really breaks my heart. Anyway, my cousin was very idle at home just a few months after he finished campus, and I decided to bring him to Nairobi so that I could get him a job. This is the period when most people lost jobs due to COVID-19.”

As Menoti described his cousin’s increasing distress, it became evident that the young man was burdened by feelings of failure and an inability to provide for his parents. Tragically, Menoti discovered his cousin’s lifeless body one evening after returning from work. The devastating event not only brought immense grief to the family, but also led to initial blame being placed on Menoti himself. However, after explaining the circumstances, understanding was reached.

Sammy Mwangi, a Counseling Psychologist in Dagoretti Sub-County, receives an average of three individuals with suicidal thoughts seeking counseling each month. Mwangi highlighted that many individuals grappling with depression or chronic stress often fail to receive appropriate support, and their pleas for help may go unnoticed, even when shared on social media. He attributed the increasing number of suicide attempts among young people to factors such as poverty, unemployment, drug abuse, and domestic violence. Additionally, Mwangi emphasized the importance of communication in dealing with stress and encouraged individuals to confide in trusted individuals to prevent suicide. However, he acknowledged that helping a person overcome suicidal thoughts is a complex and time-consuming process.

World Bank data from 2022 reveals that six out of every 100,000 Kenyans commit suicide, with men being at higher risk, accounting for nine out of 100,000 cases. Tragically, Kenya is ranked 114th out of 175 countries in the World Population Review, indicating a significant incidence of suicide cases on a global scale.

Kamadi Amata
Kamadi Amata
I am a digital content creator with niche in Health, politics, and Human Interest Features.

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