The Sunday News
Robin Muchetu Senior Reporter
THE mention of the word suicide sends shivers down one’s spine as most people want to live life to its fullest but the rate at which it occurs is alarming, leaving many wondering whether it will ever end. Suicide is the voluntary and intentional act of killing oneself and the methods of suicide vary with countries. Common methods include hanging, pesticide poisoning and use of firearms.
A number of people are left behind by people who commit suicide. One can only imagine the devastation these people have experienced. Pain mixed with guilt, anger and regret.
The one question they are left asking is; why?
Why did a friend, child, parent, spouse or sibling take their own life? Even when a note explaining the reasons is found, lingering questions usually remain: Yes, they felt enough despair to want to die, but why did they commit suicide?
A person’s suicide often takes the people left behind by surprise. The media has over the years been awash with stories of people committing suicide in their numbers.
Still fresh in the minds of many is the case of a suicide that occurred in Bulawayo’s Gwabalanda suburb on Wednesday, where a man killed his wife before hanging himself.
Gellot Ncube, a commuter omnibus driver, stabbed his wife, Nomqhele Nkiwane, nine times on the face, neck and chest after she decided to end their three-year marriage.
Before killing his wife and taking his own life, Ncube gave his sister some money and told her that it was for his funeral.
In African culture there is a belief that there are evil spirits that can torment one and push them into taking their lives. Strange as it may seem to others, it is indeed a reality.
A woman, who cannot be named, told Sunday News about her several attempts to take her own life. She said she used to hear voices telling her to take her life.
“I attempted suicide several times. Some evil voice would tell me to kill myself and I would be pushed to do just that. It once told me to go to a dam and throw myself inside and I went there. Fortunately, that day there were several people milling around the dam and I failed to kill myself. The second time the voice told me to drink a pesticide. I went and bought a cotton insect killer and when I got home to drink it, I failed to open the bottle,” she said.
When the second attempt failed, the woman said she heard the voice directing her to a railway track where she was supposed to throw herself in front of a train. However, the train, for an unknown reason, did not make it to the location on time.
The vice president of the Council of Chiefs in Zimbabwe, Chief Mtshana Khumalo, described suicide as taboo.
“Suicide from time immemorial has been regarded as taboo. It was said that when a person committed suicide they will have been extremely provoked such that they take their life but it was a very rare thing to happen back in the days,” Chief Mtshana said.
The chief said in modern day life suicide was rampant due to the mounting challenges that come with life.
“Now we see an increase in such disturbing things due to things like poverty, disease and many more. People are frustrated with life’s pressures such that they end up taking their own lives which is unacceptable. There is a need for people to seek counselling when they are faced with tough times so that there is no unnecessary loss of life,” Chief Mtshana said.
He said in rural setups traditional leaders and others offered counselling when people are frustrated with life. He said it was a free and open system where help is offered while in the urban setup people could get services of professional counsellors that can assist when trouble arises.
In general, people try to kill themselves for six reasons according to local psychologist, Mr Henry Manjolo.
According to Mr Manjolo, they are either depressed, psychotic, impulsive, have failed to get help or have a philosophical desire to die.
“Depression is without question the most common reason people commit suicide. Severe depression is always accompanied by a pervasive sense of suffering as well as the belief that to escape from it is hopeless. The pain of existence often becomes too much for severely depressed people to bear. The state of depression warps their thinking, allowing ideas like, ‘everyone would all be better off without me’ to make rational sense,” he said.
Because depression, as we all know, is almost always treatable, people should all seek to recognise its presence in close friends and loved ones. Often people suffer with it silently, planning suicide without anyone ever knowing. If you suspect someone might be depressed, don’t allow your tendency to deny the possibility of suicidal ideation prevent you from asking about it.
“Wicked inner voices often command self-destruction for unintelligible reasons. Psychosis is much harder to mask than depression and arguably even more tragic. People tend to say there are voices speaking to them which push them to suicide,” Mr Manjolo explained.
Psychosis is, however, treatable. Untreated or poorly treated psychosis almost always requires hospital admission to a locked ward until the voices lose their commanding power.
Impulsive suicide is often related to drugs and alcohol. Some people become over-emotional and impulsively attempt to end their own lives. Once sobered and calmed, these people usually feel emphatically ashamed.
The remorse is usually genuine, and whether or not they will ever attempt suicide again is unpredictable. They may try it again the very next time they become drunk or high, or never again in their lifetime.
Substance abuse and the underlying reasons for it are generally a greater concern in these people and should be addressed as aggressively as possible.
Some cry out for help and do not know how to get it. These people do not want to die but want to alert those around them that something is seriously wrong. It is then the duty of family and friends to assist them.
Some people have a philosophical desire to die. The decision to commit suicide for some is based on a reasoned decision often motivated by the presence of a painful terminal illness from which little to no hope of reprieve exists. These people are not depressed, psychotic, maudlin or crying out for help.
They are trying to take control of their destiny and alleviate their own suffering, which usually can only be done in death. They often look at their choice to commit suicide as a way to shorten a dying that will happen regardless.
Some, on the other hand, commit suicide because they have made a mistake. This is a recent, tragic phenomenon in which typically young people find themselves in serious debts which they cannot afford to pay back and they feel death is the only way out. Others commit suicide after impregnating their young girlfriends and think they will be castigated for it.
Young girls who fall pregnant at a young age feel they will be disowned from their homes because they will be pregnant and then decide to end their lives.
Parents also have to be careful on how they deal with children who fall pregnant, fail examinations or make other mistakes because any of these may fuel suicidal thoughts in their children if they become too harsh on them.
The wounds suicide leave in the lives of those left behind by it are often deep and long lasting. The apparent senselessness of suicide often fuels the most significant pain survivors feel.
It still remains a mystery if society will ever bring suicide to an end.