The Herald, 2 December 1996
DEPRESSION, sometimes a fatal condition that drives many people from all walks of life to end their own lives, continues to drive more to their graves highlighting the need for society to realise that suicide is not the solution to their problems.
More than 20 people in Harare — most of whom are schoolchildren, jilted lovers, those in financial dire straits and victims of HIV-related diseases, have committed suicide in the last few months, leaving a sting of guilty conscience for those left behind.
A mentally unbalanced condition which causes a feeling of hopelessness, loneliness and low self-esteem, has been described by experts as the cause of manic and clinical depression, both of which can be cured if treatment is sought at an early stage.
Stressful life events including family break-ups, divorces, shameful and humiliating experiences and child abuse are some of the causes of depression.
Almost everyone has been depressed once in their lives and others have at some stage contemplated committing suicide. However, a small percentage of those have sought to take their own lives.
Most victims of depression tend to turn to alcohol in a bid to forget their problems, but experts say that this is only a temporary refuge, which in most cases worsens the situation.
Sometimes people with suicidal tendencies do not realise how final death is and that by ending their own lives, they shift their burden to someone else.
Dr Tommie-Mary Samkange said there was need for realisation that there were ways of solving problems rather than trying to escape the mental turmoil that one experiences at such moments.
LESSONS FOR TODAY
Suicide is a complex issue that requires a deeper level of understanding. Society should use professional and indigenous knowledge systems to understand characteristics of people at high risk of committing suicide, in order to put in place preventative measures, and assist those with suicidal tendencies to find solutions. Thus families and communities should know their children or people.
Although society views suicide as a social problem that affects and concerns us all, that same society should also accept that suicide is a mental health problem that needs holistic approach to deal with. For, it takes a village to raise a child.
People who commit suicide leave families, friends and the community with a sense of guilt. They feel that they could have done something to avoid the needless loss of life. However, people with suicidal tendencies need to be reassured that life is worth living by being provided counselling services.
According to one specialist Kevin Ceruso, untreated depression is the major cause for suicide.
Another counsellor, Dr Steve Rose says, “The risk of suicide in a population increases when the social context fails to provide a healthy sense of purpose and belonging.” This is why the Bible teaches that we are our brother’s or sister’s keepers.
There is need for more professional counsellors in our community spaces: schools, colleges and universities, churches and the workplace.