The Downplayed Enemy

“When we recognize that someone is having (suicidal) thoughts, and we reach out, we are instantly planting a seed of hope that they’re not invisible, that they’re not alone.” – Misty Vaughan Allen

Suicide isn’t new in our midst whether religious or not. After betrayal of Jesus we are told of Judas Iscariot dying by suicide out of guilt and shame. In the current space we are not spared of the burden as day by day we have more cases being reported. Some are successful while others are not. Unfortunately, when we talk about suicide it’s usually in hushed tones for the fear we might make it come to us through our loved ones.

Growing up, suicide was unheard of in my village until later when I got wind of an individual who had threatened the mother with suicide for not giving him money he had asked. I never heard of how the story developed but it was a scary thing and people considered prayers for him to rid him of the bad omen. From scientific evidence, it’s reported that talking about suicide makes it easier for individuals going through a tough time and considering death through suicide to open up and seek help. I believe this is an option worth exploring rather than hide our head in the sand like ostrich and pretend suicide isn’t a problem we contend with on a daily basis in our society.

Today as we marked World Suicide Prevention Day, I couldn’t stop thinking of those who left us by suicide. During my final year in campus I was part of the team behind MindYourMind JKUAT where we championed mental health matters. Unfortunately in the very year, we had multiple suicide attempts and some successful ones. I felt beaten but I couldn’t get to wrap my head around the turmoil they had gone through to the point of considering suicide as their best option out of the pain.

Cognizant of the fact that not so often do we share our experiences, I decided to let you know that suicidal thoughts and suicide is real. The trigger factors are social factors we encounter everyday. The difference being our response to them and the support structures we have to help us through.

The year was 2015, I had been up and about doing all I could as a university students. Families are messed up but ultimately they are the tribe we never choose and most often stays with us through thick and thin. We had some not so good moments as a family over that time which I had to deal with. In other hand, I had my personal affairs and school to juggle. The outcome wasn’t the best on my end and looking at every twist and turn it was bleak. You know the way they say you should push through, there’ll be light at the end of the tunnel? I don’t think even the tunnel existed for me in the first place. I contemplated taking a break from everything and being part of a history nobody would have to remember. The worst part of it all was the fact that my mother had to shoulder it all as the parent she was. I couldn’t ever get to make peace.

Suicidal thoughts were competing and the options were always taking turns on which would be swifter, less painful and efficient. That’s the extent I could do the modelling of the different scenarios in my head. Luckily enough, I never stopped going to class. Well, that would raise questions and I was the perfect student. Good students don’t miss lectures so how could I? It went on for a while and by luck one mid-morning as we were leaving the lecture hall a friend called on me. It was to discuss academic matters and being one close friend I decided to take my chances and tell her what I was feeling. She didn’t judge or act like she knew what I was going through because for sure she didn’t. Considering the anguish that I felt my mom was going through was unfair, she asked me whether taking my life would help her or make things worse for her? On consideration, however much the pressure was on her we could still talk it over. Leaving her to bear the brunt of it alone would kill her faster than me taking my life and so I changed course.

That brief mid-morning chat with “Shiro” gave me a different perspective on life and I hope to share the same with others. Suicidal thoughts come to us we don’t ask them to come. The pain, the anguish and apprehension pushes one to the cliff and then suicide poses as the best option out. It’s a promising way to alight the train and get done with the pain. Ours is to break the chain and grant one another a chance at life. It’s not easy but we can do it. Let’s take a moment to listen, empathize and give others a second chance at life.

“The call for help might be as outright as the red light on the road sign. Unfortunately, we work so hard to deny the very fact that people may not be as we believe or perceive them to be. It’s only them who know what they feel and them that can tell their story. Yours is to listen and care.”

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