Suicide in Kenya: determinants and impact on the victims and the family
This study on suicide and attempted suicide was carried out in Nairobi. The main purposes of the study werg (1) to investigate the extent and nature of suicide in Kenva in general and Nairobi in particular (2) to look at the relationship between suicidal acts and the African life style, that is, the extended family systems, polygamous marriages and place of residence (3) to investigate the relationship between current Kenyan social problems and suicide (4) to find out the impact of suicide on the family of the individuals committed suicide and finally to sensitize the Kenyan people to the fact that suicide is really a cry for help and its survivors need other forms of treatment rather thary punishment. The theoretical rationale of this study was that the determinants of suicide are multifactorial as possed to deterministic. The latter holds that human beings are subjected and subservient to some powerful forces over which the individual has no control. The study covered a 5 year period (1975-1979) and included:- (1) 203 individual cases of suicide reported in the newspapers (Daily Nation) during 1975-1979; (2) 56 cases of individuals who had killed themselves as shown in police records; (3) 117 individuals who had attempted suicide; (4) 79 individuals as a control group; (5) 30 cases of family members or relatives of individuals who had committed or attempted suicide; and (6) 25 case studies of individuals who had attempted suicirle and 5 cases of individuals who had succeeded in killing themselves as reported by their relatives; Purposive and stratified random sampling techniques were used to arrive at the samples. Multivariate tables and Chi-square tests were used to analyse the data. The most significant firtding of this study was that suicide is on increase in Nairobi and the rate of increase is infact higher than the rate of population increase. The rate of population increase in Nairobi during 1975-1979 was 7.5 per cent while that of the successflll and attempted at that time were 300 and 550 per cent respectively. The study also indicated that there were more suicidal attempts than successful suicides in Nairobi at the time. The majority of those who attempted suicide were found to be young, unemployed, had some formal education and were married women, most of whom were housewives. The majority of those who succeeded in killing themselves were older, employed and most of them were married men. In addition to that those who attempted suicide came from places far from Nairobi (long distance migration) and were generally dissatisfied with their marriage, occupation, income, education, place of residence and life achievement. The individuals who succeeded in killing themselves carne from places near Nairobi (short distance migration) and either stayed alone or with their relatives, while those who attempted suicide either stayed with spouses and children or parents and relatives. The majority of those who attempted suicide did so because of poor relationships with spouses, disagreements with parents,- losses and mental and physical problems. Those who succeeded in killing themselves did so because of problems with spouses, unemployment and poverty. The methods employed in suicide varied with the type of suicide. Those who succeeded in killing themselves used violent methods while those who attempted to do so used non-violent methods. The items used depended on availability. The majority of individuals who were involved in suicidal acts did so during the months when there was shortage in protein and calorific food supply and the periods of peak labour demand in most parts of Kenya. The months were found to be January-March; July-September; October-December for attempted suicide and April-June and October-December for successful suicide. The findings showed that very few of those who attempted suicide had attended the psychiatric clinic at Kenyatta National Hospital when referred. The majority of the relatives of suicide victims tended to be resentful of the victims and felt that they had been let down. In conclusion, this study has shown that suicide is on the increase in Nairobi and this, has nothing to do with population increase of this city. It has also shown that factors that may lead people in Kenya to commit suicide are varied including poor family relationships, unemployment, the African life style and losses. Throughout the study, suicide came out as a way of communicating problems while infact creating many more problems for the family members left behind.