I have been so occupied with work, keeping up with my social life and responsibilities that I forgot which day or month it was! I know, crazy! It’s September once again; suicide prevention month. Continue reading
By Kenneth Okombo
Suicide is often a taboo topic, especially for us Kenyans. Anytime there a report about individuals taking their own life,we usually give reasons to suit our denial. Professionally, I came face to face with suicide, or rather suicidal people when I was attached at one of the Level 5 hospitals in one of the counties bordering Nairobi. Never had I experienced anything to do with suicide before this period in my life. Not even in the psychology units that I had been doing for the past 3 years.
Suicide is a term that we come across every so often, especially in the daily news reports, when a case or two is reported of a suicide or suicide attempt. This day is set aside so as to create awareness of the magnitude of the situations that lead to suicides and to promote universal action to prevent suicides.
When we come across a suicide case, the question most of us ask is, “what could have made that person kill himself/herself?”
Today I want to make it interesting and look at suicide from two different perspectives. From a Psychological point of view, which is your mental state, and from a sociological point of view which mostly revolves around your environment.
Disclaimer! I might end up sounding like that boring college professor with the droopy eyes, and voice that’s a first class ticket to dream land, but I believe that this is important knowledge that should be shared. Knowledge is power and that’s the power we need to make a difference…with that said, back to my order of business for the day…
As a Sociology student in campus I came across a suicide theory coined by a gentleman that went by the name, Emile Durkheim. Durkheim came up with a structural sociological theory about why suicide occurs. He talked of four types of suicide in his study, of which I would like to expound on, so as to give us a rough idea of the sociological factors that could lead an individual to the “suicide lane”.
Emile (First name basis because… swag) claimed that this kind of suicide happened when an individual felt like he/she did not integrate well or blend in in his/her social set up. For example when an individual feels they don’t belong in any social set up, the social aspect within them dies and therefore purpose for existence ceases to exist. If you ask me, that’s a pretty good illustration of the phrase, “man is not an island” Their frustrations may lead them to taking their own lives, with the idea that the world would be a better place without them. This kind of suicide is said to occur in loosely integrated urban societies. Do you see why it’s important to have friends or loved ones close by? If I share my two cents on this concept, I would always advise that we have go-to people who can help you get through day to day frustrations. Finding a place we belong helps to ease the psychological burden of stress and in turn keep away those feelings of worthlessness that lead to suicide.
In this type of suicide, an individual views his death as a benefit to his or her social group. For example when a soldier intentionally gives up his life for his country, or when a guy takes a bullet for his his loved one.
3. Anomic suicide
Emile coined the term anomie to refer to a state of social strain or confusion. When there is a sudden change of norms or the way of life that an individual is used to, this leads to confusion and a feeling of lack of structure or control. This is why suicide rates tend to increase when, for example, the economy crashes or a natural disaster occurs and people are forced to make rapid changes in their way of living.
4. Fatalistic suicide.
This type of suicide is a bit contradictory to anomic suicide. Durkheim claims that as much as people need structured rules and social constraints, a certain amount of independence is also required. When freedom or independence is completely taken away from an individual, like in the case of a slave, the individual may be tempted to seek an outlet or way out, and in many cases it’s through attempting suicide. A good example is a case I saw in the news of a guy in Kenya who was sentenced to prison and opted to poison himself, because he felt life wasn’t worth living without his autonomy.
In the field of Psychology, there’s a theory known as “The Interpersonal-Psychological Theory of Suicidal Behaviour”. This theory proposes that an individual cannot commit suicide unless he/she has the desire and the ability to do so .This theory states that when people hold two states of mind over a long period of time, they tend to have a desire for death. The said states of mind are; perceived burdensomeness ( Which is the perception that one is a burden to the family or the community as a whole) and a sense of low belonging or social alienation (not part of a social/integral group).
In reference to the information above, it’s safe to say that the three common factors which lead individuals to committing suicide is lack of a support system/sense of belonging, the sense of purposelessness and perceived burdensomeness. So how do we help those who are suicidal? Keep posted for the next blog post for more insight.
With love and light😘😘😘
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