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!

Today – Taking a minute can change a life

Today, my heart is heavy. Today my heart goes out to everyone struggling with a mental health condition and suicide (thoughts/ ideation/attempts).

Today my heart aches because a number of my friends are struggling now, struggling with their minds telling them they are not worth anything. Struggling to understand why life throws such curve balls, struggling with anxiety.

Today, I feel the pain and the struggles, because I have been there. I know what it is like to feel hopeless and worthless, to be in a dark foggy phase that never seems to lift, and to flirt with the idea of ending it all.

Today, I am reminded I could have been just another statistic in the number of people who die by suicide, but I am here because someone cared to listen, someone cared enough to make a call and to make daily follow-up.

Today I am reminded of how much power there is in a listening ear, how much power there is in just being present (even with no idea how to do it). Today I am reminded that we need to go beyond ‘I am fine’ and really find out how the people in our circles are doing – particularly those who have had a history of mental illnesses.

***

September is World Suicide Prevention Month. September 10th was World Suicide Prevention Day, and this month’s theme iss ‘Taking a minute can change a life’. This post comes a tad bit late, but I thought to put it up even as September comes to an end. We may not realize it, but behind the emojis and memes online, many people are struggling with depression and a host of other mental health conditions. In many cases, these conditions if unaddressed, lead to suicide. And that is why it is important that we talk about suicide.

I have had personal struggles with suicide ideation when I suffered postpartum depression, and on several days, I wanted out, I wanted to do away with the pain of not loving my child and hating myself for it. In the midst of all these chaos, my friend, the dreadloc’d one in this post, constantly checked in to find out how I was holding up. It was a mix of chats, texts, and calls, sometimes late into the night when I found solace on a wet pillow with a nursing child on a tired boob. This year’s theme on ‘Taking a minute can change a life’ plays out in my life. All I needed to know at the time was, it mattered that despite what I felt, someone cared to listen, cared to talk to me and cared to check on me.

Statistics show that more than 2 million Kenyans are depressed [Link], that’s 2,000,000. Approximately 5% of the country’s population is struggling with depression. 7000 Kenyans will die by suicide each year [Link]. Isn’t it time we talked about mental health and suicide? Time we let others know there is no shame in struggling? Please reach out (on any of the social media platforms, or use the contact page to get in touch), do not suffer in silence. It is not weakness to ask for help, it is immense strength to realize that one cannot make it alone.

 

NOTE: I posted my struggle with suicide ideation in this post.

Secondly, inspired by Sitawa’s post and with her permission, I reposted ‘Crisis helplines in Kenya and Africa if you are feeling suicidal

 

 

 

 

 

 

Suicide Crisis Helplines in Kenya (and parts of Africa)

Good afternoon everyone,

It feels good to be back, on here and online. I took a break last week even as the election season culminated in the voting process and tension in parts of the country. Over the years, I have learnt that staying plugged in during such times, or when there is a crisis, say a terror attack, always tips me over with anxiety. I start to feel helpless and worn out, partly because in many cases it may not be possible to help directly. If I don’t address it, I start to feel myself teetering on the edge of a depressive breakdown, and it is not pretty. So I guard my heart and my mental well-being, to ensure I can function, and take care of my son.

In recent times, I have had conversations with moms struggling with postpartum depression in different stages (Read more of that in this post), and it is always encouraging to see many moms share their stories. With the mention of suicide ideation and attempt (this mom did get help and made a recovery), I thought to put up  list of suicide crisis helplines in Kenya. A little while later, I got an email notification for a new post by Sitawa on the same. I asked her for permission to share the same on this blog, so credits go to MyMindMyFunk. Here is the link to the original post:

KENYA
  1. Befrienders Kenya +254736542304 +254722178177 (regular call charges apply) Formerly Samaritans offer free listening services to people who are in crisis and/or suicidal. https://www.befrienderskenya.org
  2. Niskize -‎ ‎0900620800 (Ksh 7 per minute) is a 24 hour counselling call centre that deals with relationship/marriage issues, trauma, grief, anxiety, depression. http://www.niskize.co.ke (currently down but check their Facebook page https://m.facebook.com/Niskize/)
  3. One2One by LCVT – 0800720121 (toll free) works on HIV related issues among young people including the psychological effects of those issues. ‎http://www.lvcthealth.org/one-2-one
  4. 1195 by HAK (toll free) works on Gender Based Violence and related issues, borrowing from my personal journey these issues can lead to psychological trauma if felt unchecked. http://hakgbv1195.org/
  5. Have to throw in 116 (toll free) for child abuse
ACROSS AFRICA (in Alphabetical Order)
Botswana
  • Lifeline Botswana – 3911270 is a national lifeline 24 hour service.https://m.facebook.com/Lifeline-Organisation-Botswana-798239733539364/
Ghana
  • Lifeline Ghana – +233244846701 or +2332 444 71279 (regular call charges apply) is a 24/7 suicide prevention counselling telephone line
  • Mental Health Authority Ghana – 050 991 4046 and 020 681 4666 dedicated lines for persons in need of psychological help or contemplating suicide.
Nigeria

  • MANI Distress Lifelines – 08060101157, 08136770508, 08093565520

South Africa

  • Lifeline South Africa – 0861 322 322 (toll-free) works 24/7 dealing with trauma, suicide and other psychological issues. http://lifelinesa.co.za
  • Crisis Team – +27 83 256 5993 is a 24 hour support service for those with suicidal thoughts and feelings, the bereavement of the loss of a loved one to suicide and other traumas. http://www.crisisteam.co.za/
Uganda
  • Befrienders Uganda – 0800200450 runs a crisis intervention center at Mulago national referral hospital. http://befriendersuganda.org/
Zimbabwe
  • Samaritans Bulawayo – +263965000 offers face to face counselling (walk ins and appointments) www.samariansbyo.co.zw

Feel free to share this post. Stick it up somewhere visible and most importantly, USE the information if need  be. Remember, there is NO SHAME in asking for help.