5 Problems with How we treat Suicide in Nairobi

kari kamau

*trigger warning*

(This article first appeared on Black Girl Provoked. It’s republished in it’s original form with the author’s permission)

kari kamau
…I absolutely pushed  to deliver on my promise for part 2 of my last post, but I’ve mentioned to you in the past that I only write when I’m mad. I’ve completely moved heaven and earth to find the outrage to inspire a sequel, and I simply could not. Nonetheless, it’s March,there’s black ice on the ground, and I have plunged downwards towards the concrete several times too many not to ruminate about death. ;P I’m feeling a little morbid, so that is what we’re going to talk about today.

Over the course of the year a good handful of acquaintances back home have resolved to self-destruct. Subsequently, one public nuisance and then another would compete for the most authentic blurb to post on Facebook, and within twenty four hours, my news-feed would be attacked by a pesky number of now twenty-somethings upon getting wind, competing to announce of a death, complete with a 2012 dated picture, a memory declared, and of-course a puff about mental health. and then that’s it. As per the ushe, my disheartened ass will list 5 problems with how we treat suicide and then watch from my balcony as you disagree and throw rocks at each other.

1) Death as a justification to party

Let’s revisit these public nuisances: the anchormen (AND WOMEN!!) who will, at a jolting speed compile online obituaries. This clump of souls, often with very loose ties to the departed will become violently involved with funeral proceedings, and take up space. They will turn otherwise somber venues for the berieved into class reunions,  hookup grounds, drinking festivals and talent shows and power their relevance into these affairs, by and by overshadowing close friends and family and any helpful discourse surrounding mental health. The aftermath of these events is profitable however, because everybody leaves boozed up (as if Nairobians ever need an excuse), hooked up and well connected. So I suppose I see why they should do it.

2) Death as an opportunity to sell papers

Media houses in Nairobi will take any disturbing situation as opportunity to, well, take up space. As with the nuisances mentioned above, misinformation often ensues; especially when the bereaved has any tie to a Public figure or politician. The press will finesse their way into relevance, leaving a badly edited piece of work which will be quickly unauthenticated soon after. But that doesn’t stop them from producing a follow-up article and then another. The falsity spreads like wildfire nonetheless, whose content blames the victim and the family, and criminalizes their mental health.

3) Coverup

Nobody likes to speak about suicide; especially when it’s pertaining to one of their own, granted. But it’s one thing to avoid, and another thing to straight up lie about the cause of death. African families feel internalized shame, and will do everything to minimize the course of events. However what everybody is left with is an awkward legacy, a phony funeral, and a message to everybody around that any disorder related to the mind is unspeakable.

4) The lengthy Funeral

Even the knowledge that deceased had noted that they would prefer a short, sweet, and relevant ceremony doesn’t stop distant relatives and religious personnel to compete for a spot at the podium and the longest speech. Funerals turn into political rallies, talent shows and everything but what they should be, and bit by bit, through this all-day affair, beauty and sanctity is diminished. Clearly, considering the way we extend the funeral, which is usually on a Friday, into the turn-up that we would have had anyway.

5) How quickly we forget the lost soul, and run away from vulnerable conversations that could slow down this epidemic. 


Let’s have helpful conversations about mental health.
*Shout out to one of my Facebook friends Steffani Musho who unknowingly posted something recently that gave me the courage and inspiration to speak on the topic.

*I’d like to post more often. Nairobians, feel fee to message me locally relevant topics so that I might have something to address the next time I’m either angry or inspired by one of Vera Sidika’s pep talks on snapchat.

Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this articles on this site do not necessarily reflect those held by #NU.

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Wangari Kamau
| wangarikarikamau@gmail.com | + posts

A ruffler of feathers, lover of knowledge, and an indignant woman and a half.