He hung helplessly on the roof. His tongue was out of his mouth and eyes popped out effortlessly from their sockets. He looked helpless. He looked dead. He was dead. But why did he choose to die this way? Why did he choose to take his own life? That is the sight that tens of people who went to Ayala’s (not his real name) home that Friday night were subjected to; a sight that will forever torment his children.
Ayala was a relatively successful man. He had built his family a decent home on the foot of Nyabondo Plateau a few kilometres from our home. He had a beautiful wife and children like any man would wish. He had a good job at the Ministry of Immigration. He owned two cars, an old Mercedes car that he bought from a former minister and a nice truck that sorted out the needs of his farm. In short he was successful on the various parameters that we would want to use.
However, Ayala seemed to be fighting fierce battles in his mind. His gentle demeanour and winsome smile was hiding a war field that we will never come to know. He never left a suicide note neither did he talk to anyone about it. A few antidepressants found in his private room are the only things that told the tale of a man who was at war with himself. A man who never came out alive in a battle that only he knew. A man who was smiling away his sorrows. A man who is no more.
The situation was not any different when I went to pay my last respects to Adede (not his real name) in Ramogi. Adede was my good friend back then when we were in high school. Adede, like any other student, was so full of life after High School. he joined a local university and passed highly with a second class upper in a business course that he chose after failing to make it to medical school.
Adede however had numerous family problems. He had lost his father to homicide back then when he was in form one. His mother was constantly in and out of the hospital with cancer. His brothers looked up to him because he was the eldest son in that family. His uncles had fought over his father’s wealth till there was nothing left except the little land where their house stood. Adede finished school knowing that he would be the solution to the family’s problems. However he was in for a rude shock, he walked from company to company looking for jobs but to no avail. He tried everything that was within his means but nothing seemed to work. I guess he felt bad that his friends had made it in life and he was left behind. The last time I talked to him, I managed to hustle him a job for project writing that gave him rent for that month.
Before we had time to catch up again, he jumped over a foot bridge and was hit by a driver who I guess is traumatised wherever he is. Adede took his own life. Looking at him in the coffin, he laid gently. Except for a depressed frontal bone fracture and a few dried clots of blood, his face never changed. I will never know what was running in his head. The family did not read the suicide note for fear of being blamed for contributing to the death of their own, for failing to be a good family to him. Wherever he is, I know that Adede wished he found someone to talk to.
I recently read a newspaper article that talked about a young Kenyan lady who had committed suicide in the United states and it saddened me. It pains me that many young people are increasingly committing suicide or battling depression or anxiety or any form of mental illness without any one to talk to or anywhere to turn to.
Well, the society has conditioned us to believe that having a mental illness is a form of weakness, a lack of fortitude or willingness to sort out our own problems. This view should change because it will hinder people from seeking therapy and help before things fall apart. In the last one year, many people who have died that I know have died of suicide than any other cause. So folks, next time you meet your friend and they tell you they are fine, it is a lie, it is a hoax, we say we are fine because we want to be polite. Probe beyond this am fine thing. You just might be the pillar which they need to rise on their feet again and face life with vitality.
As you think about it, remember that the biggest wars are not fought in the worlds’ battle fields, they are fought in the chambers of our souls and deep down in our minds. Lets talk about mental health. Lets STOP the stigma.