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Uasin Gishu Residents Urged to Take Action to Prevent Suicide

The residents of Uasin Gishu County have been asked to report cases of people exhibiting suicide tendencies for help in order to prevent further loss of lives through suicide.

Speaking during the Word Suicide Prevention Day celebrations in Eldoret, Uasin Gishu, the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) for Moi Teaching and Referral Hospital (MTRH), Dr. Wilson Arwasa urged members of the public to take action by picking out people who appear disturbed or behaving in unusual manner or talking of ideas relating to taking their own life, by seeking help for them. The help could be right from the community level, local hospitals all the way to national health facilities like the MTRH and Mathare national hospital.

“We are embarking on prevention and it starts with action, when you see somebody is distracted, what can you do? We do not need to lose another life to suicide yet it is something that can be prevented,” he said.

On his part, the Mathare Teaching and Referral Hospital Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Dr. Julius Ogato, indicated that suicide and mental illness are here with us and are preventable and that the government has invested heavily in health facilities and workforce to ensure that when people are affected, they can come forward and get treated.

He regretted that mental illness, unlike physical illnesses where one can be tested in a laboratory setting to show what one is suffering from and affects the way somebody feels and thinks and does not have specific tests.

“There is change in behaviour, change in interaction and some of these changes unfortunately are taken as inappropriate behaviour,” explained Dr. Ogato.

“I am appealing to all Kenyans, when you see somebody having some behaviour tendencies that are not proper, and sounding out ideas or conclusions that do not make sense, kindly show empathy to them and bring them to us. This is our business, this is what we do, we treat those kinds of people and restore life for them because mental illness steals the social aspect of them,” he added.

He further revealed that treatment for mental disorders and suicide prevention is expensive and the government recognises this and that is why the government has come up with the program of social health insurance through the Universal Health Coverage (UHC).

The CEO urged the members of the public to enrol in the social health insurance and the NHIF so that when one is sick then NHIF pays.

In her remarks, Uasin Gishu Women Representative, Glady Boss Shollei, pointed out that there is high prevalence of suicide cases among people of the age of 18 – 49 years, which implies that majority of the affected are the young.

She said that suicide severity is such that worldwide, for every 100 deaths, 1 is a suicide, which translates to about 700,000 people annually.

The women rep called on the residents not to stigmatize people with mental illnesses in the community, but rather show empathy to help them, adding that some mental illnesses are attributed to illicit alcohol, which is accessible to the young generation, compelling them to commit suicide as result of depression after getting intoxicated.

“I think everyone knows somebody in their family or relations who has committed suicide. In all the socio-economic strata in our country, we find very prominent people with children committing suicide, we now need to sensitize our people about mental illness because they usually get help and get treated,” she said.

She further advocated for amendment to law to decriminalize attempted suicide because it usually occurs as a result of mental illness or alcohol and drug abuse.

“As the law recognises attempted suicide as a criminal offence, I advocate that it is decriminalized because it is as result of mental illness or alcohol and drug abuse,” she said.

“When the amendment was brought to parliament some years back it was brought under the mental health bill and according to the standing orders you cannot make amendment to the penal code when you have passed a mental health bill. There is need to sit and bring up a substantive amendment,” added Shollei.

Uasin Gishu Chief Officer for Clinical Services Dr. Paul Ongeti reaffirmed the county government’s commitment to address mental illness through adopting and customizing mental health policy and deploying mental health teams to the sub counties.

By Ekuwam Sylvester

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