OUT OF THIS LIFE – A photo exhibition on suicide in Kenya

“OUT OF THIS LIFE – Let’s talk suicide. This is an invitation to a necessary dialogue in any society that condemns suicide because of cultural, religious, or social reasons.”

My friend Patricia Esteve is holding an exhibition aptly titled ‘Out of This Life’ to shed light and have conversation on a taboo subject in our community – suicide. According to Patricia, “This is a documentary project, which gathers the experiences of people in Kenya who have tried to commit suicide or who have lost a loved one to suicide. Using photography I collect their testimonies throughout the country, on the stigma surrounding suicide as well as the social and legal injustice they face.”

Did you know that according to the Kenyan Law, anyone who attempts to commit suicide is guilty of a crime? What’s more, the sentence for such a crime is two years in prison, a fine, or both. This appalling, and need I add archaic, decriminalization of an act that results from mental health disorders only does more to stigmatize and shame the people struggling. Often times, a suicide attempt is a cry for help, which is precisely why this exhibition is well timed if the increase in suicide cases lately is anything to go. (See this link). As someone who struggled with suicide ideation when I had Postpartum Depression, this project is dear to my heart.

Read More: On suicide ideation – The hardest post I ever had to write

The exhibition, which opened on 19th April 2018, tells the story of suicide, from the eyes of those who have flirted with the idea, attempted and survived, and the caregivers of those who have died by suicide (Please note, I wrote died by suicide – not committed suicide. It is part of the language of mental health. When we say committed suicide, there is the implication of doing so willingly, yet we are all aware suicide is one of the symptoms of a wide range of mental health conditions. Saying died by suicide therefore, is the very same way we would say someone died from any other health condition. Whew, I feel like I need to do a blogpost on this).

I walked in late (thanks Nairobi traffic), to find the credits rolling to the video Patricia had put together, after which she gave a small speech and thanked everyone for showing up. I took a moment to breathe in and out before going round the exhibition. The very first photo I saw was of this lady, face covered with a black shawl, a red dress and black stockings. I know this lady inside and outside, because that was me, deep in the throes of PPD, back in 2015.

Suicide. Open Spaces. depresión post parto .
Samaine´s story.

Patricia reached out and asked whether I would get on board with her project, which I did and share my story on living with PPD. Seeing those photos (they were two, one where I was with my then 3-year old son) tugged at my heart in a way I cannot quite explain. There was a sense of amazement – at how far we have come with J, and there was a lingering sense of relief. Relief because PPD had pushed me to the very edge of suicide ideation – but we survived because we got help, and can now offer psychosocial support for moms through PPDKenya support groups. The silent tears came and I requested a friend to let me have a moment to myself.

There are a few other photos that really stood out, which I will share below.

Photo Credits: Patricia Esteve

Go check out the exhibition guys! Patricia has done an amazing job with this exhibition. Check out her website here.

It runs up to the 27th of April 2018, between 10am and 6pm at the Kenya Cultural Centre (Kenya National Theatre) on Harry Thuku Road. entry is free!

This is why I am vocal about Postpartum Depression in Kenya

Hi.

My name is Samoina, and I am a Postpartum Depression survivor.

Have you heard about postpartum depression before? Postpartum Depression (abbreviated PPD) is one of several perinatal mood disorders that affects moms up to one year after birth. The precise cause of PPD remains unknown, but it is thought to be as a result of the sharp drop in hormonal levels. Ideally, during pregnancy, progesterone levels are at an all-time high. After birth, their levels plummet suddenly, leading to significant changes in the body.

This is not to be confused with baby blues, a mild and short-lived condition that affects a new mom’s moods and usually disappears on its own after about 2 weeks. Baby blues are characterized by exhaustion, moodiness, and worry, which to some extent, are normal as they develop during the transition from pregnancy to motherhood. If, however, these symptoms do not disappear, and instead get more intense as the days go by, there is cause for concern as this could point to PPD.

Some of the symptoms associated with PPD include intense anger, irritability, intrusive thoughts, confusion and the inability to bond with one’s child. Many moms also experience such deep despair and hopelessness that makes one feel like their existence as a mom is meaningless. The endless crying is also an indicator that all is not well. Other symptoms of PPD include feeling worthless, overwhelmed, and most of all scared to reach out. Most affected moms are scared to reach out because there is still so much stigma that surrounds Postpartum Depression and mental health in general.

But,

Aren’t moms supposed to enjoy this blissful period?

Doesn’t motherhood come naturally?

Which mother hates their child after carrying them for 9 months?

There must be a spiritual reason why you are suffering after getting your baby!

Do you know someone somewhere has it worse than you do? Can you just snap out of it!

….

 

Does this sound familiar? If it does, perhaps it is safe for me to say that these nuances are part of the reason many moms suffer in silence. I am vocal about it (I run a FB page here, do check it out, and Like, Like, Like) because I know just how much PPD takes away from a mom and from their child.

I am vocal about it because I look forward to a Kenya where maternal mental health will be a priority.

I am vocal because I thought I would get this information from hospital after delivery, but I did not (still so much to be done on this front).

I am vocal because right now, a mom somewhere is battling with postpartum depression. Statistics show that 1 in 7 moms is at risk of PPD. To bring this closer home, think of 7 of your friends who are moms, 1 is at risk. Isn’t this sobering enough?

I am vocal because I do not want these moms to go through the harrowing experience that PPD is, and I want them to get help as soon as possible

I am vocal because PPD took away the memories of my son’s first year, and all I am left with is a hazy collection of scattered snippets of motherhood, and I miss it, and I can never recover that..

I am vocal about PPD because there is still so much awareness to create, both online and offline, to get the conversations about mental health going.

Won’t you share this article and help get started on creating awareness of Postpartum Depression in Kenya?

 

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