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Suicide - Recognizing the Signals and Acting on Time

In Kenya, over 300,000 people die by suicide per year. Recognizing alarm signals, informing yourself, and getting help can save lives.

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Every day around die by suicide in this country. According to statistics and studies, the rate of suicide in men is three times higher than in women. With attempted suicide the opposite is the case: these are 1.5 times more common among women than men. Suicide is the second most common cause of death among teenagers. The suicide rate has fallen steadily since 1980, yet the number of suicides, even if assisted suicides - i.e. euthanasia - are excluded, is still high.

Behind every suicide is a personal story

Lack of prospects, loneliness, unemployment, lack of security, the consequences of sexual abuse, burnout or a dementia diagnosis - those affected see only one way out for a wide variety of reasons. So behind every suicide or suicide attempt is a personal story. What most of those affected have in common is the presence of a mental illness; in around 70 percent of all suicide cases, depression is in the background. 

Solutions no longer apparent

In most cases, suicide or a suicide attempt is an impulsive act. It is preceded by a trigger that increases emotional pressure and leads to a feeling of hopelessness. The perception is narrowed, solutions are no longer recognizable for the affected person and the fateful step is taken. However, most of those affected do not want to die, but they do not want to continue living like this. 

The act out of an impulse usually has a history, a history of suffering. Relationship problems, conflicts at work, bullying at school, isolation, fears about the future, the death of a loved one, serious illnesses - there are many examples of what can drive people into a depression and for them hopeless situation. 

Pay attention to warning signs

If these people are left to their own devices, there is a great danger that they will get caught up in a whirlpool of negative emotions from which they can no longer find their way out. That's why it's important to watch out for warning signs. Very few people attempt suicide without first mentioning their problems, without sending help signals in their own way. It is often difficult for those around them to recognize these or to detect a possible suicidal intent behind them. 
Important and serious alarm signals in the context of certain life situations are:

  • Expressing suicidal thoughts or mentioning suicide, because the often heard statement "whoever talks about suicide doesn't do it" is wrong.
  • Aggravating life circumstances such as illness, unemployment, loneliness, separation from a loved one, etc.
  • Social withdrawal - turning away from friends and family
  • Marked mood seings
  • Radical personality changes
  • Loss of reality
  • Severe anxiety
  • Self-destructive reckless behaviour
  • Obsessing about death
  • Crises after traumatic events
  • Alcohol and drug abuse
  • Previous suicide attempts. Nearly one in ten people who have had one or more suicide attempts die by suicide.

If a relative, friend, schoolmate or work colleague notices that one or more of the points on this list apply to someone they know, they should  talk to the person concerned about it. Listening and withholding judgement is very important. It also may be useful to consult a doctor or psychologist or to seek further professional help.

Grief and guilt among the relatives

The suicide of a loved one is a traumatic experience for those left behind. Not only do they have to deal with grief and an unimaginable emptiness, but they are also plagued by feelings of guilt. Questions such as "why didn't I notice?", "couldn't I have done more?" or "how could I have prevented this tragedy?" haunt relatives and colleagues of someone who has committed suicide. 

For these people, too, it is important to be able to talk about what happened, to accept professional help or to exchange experiences with people to whom something similar has happened. Processing the events through conversation is enormously important and can help to get out of the low.

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