One of the factotrs that got adoloscents stressed  and triggered suicidal motives were finacial. PHOTO/COURTESY 

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Why suicide cases were on the rise among learners

What you need to know:

  • According to a research, one of the causes of death among 15-19 year olds was suicide.
  • It is said that during the lockdown, children experienced a lot that they did not get a chance to recover from.  

According to research carried out by Uganda Youth Development Link-a non-profit organization, suicide is a major public health concern.

The study revealed suicide being one of the causes of death among adolescents aged 15-19 years old.
Elizabeth Nabunya, a counselling psychologist cites the major triggers to suicidal attempts to have worsened during the Covid-19 pandemic.

She says, “During the lockdowns that was a government initiative to control the surge of Covid-19 infections, children were able to watch all the drama unfold between their parents at home which greatly affected them.”

Triggers
Following the pandemic, schools had been closed for two years since March 2020. To avoid massive infections and death, the government resorted to halt physical school interactions hence leaving learners to carry on virtual studies.

Nabunya believes the financial implications the lockdowns imposed on parents affected families.
“Once some parents were left jobless or slowed down on businesses, the financial burden was shifted to the children that got involved in money making ventures which affected their interest in resuming school,” she explains.

Some parents she said had to adjust on their expenditures which was difficult for their children to accept.
For instance on school reopening earlier this year, a One Emmanuel Okello allegedly hung himself in the compound while his siblings were away for school after expressing his disinterest to resume school to his father, and another six year old Moreen Nantume was found hanging dead in her bedroom by her brother.

It is reported that the latter hanged herself following her parents’ decision to send her to a rural school in Lugumba, Buikwe District.

According to the mental expert the bad vices among the children such as alcohol and drug consumption are attributed to idle time and are also factored as possible trigger to suicidal ideations.

Other possible triggers she lists could arise from family conflicts sexual abuse, loss of hope, society misconceptions on distress where they think a child is just going through a phase and many others.

Experiences
These cases have continued to take a great toll among learners which is evidenced on each term school reopening.

One Tuesday morning, Wanyange Girls secondary school woke to the news of a suicidal death of their student Josephine Namuli.

According to the school head teacher Ms. Deborah Wesonga, the deceased was found hanging dead in the dormitory after missing out on the morning preps.

“We found a notebook where she had written a lot of information for over a year and her friends also shared some of her disturbing posts on a WhatsApp group she had with friends during holidays,” she shares.

Unfortunately, on her return to school the school authorities and her parents never realized anything suspicious.  

To tackle the distress left behind after this tragedy, Ms. Wesonga says the school had a mass and also prayed at the dormitory of the crime scene.

During the first lockdown, Jane Mwima lost her high paying job as an accountant at an oil and gas firm which made her reflect on her expenditures including school fees figures.

“I decided to tone down and adjust on my lifestyle as well as that of my household by looking out for schools with lesser tuition fees and also next to home to avoid incurring fuel costs,” she shares.
Similar to other parents, Mwima’s children were unhappy settling for low-end institutions from the urban school settings they were familiar with.

Mwima then resorted to communicating her financial position to her children who learnt to accept it.

Signs
According to Nabunya, parents and school authorities ought to be attentive to any odd behaviors among learners.

Here she enlists some of the signs that your child might be facing psychological distress.
She says; Missing school repetitively, anti-social behavior, anger issues, blank stares, low esteem, poor child grooming, weight loss and low concentration levels are usually symptoms of distress among young people.

The expert urges parents to attend to such symptoms with professional care and most importantly avail their children with adequate time to show them affection and care.

“I decided to tone down and adjust on my lifestyle as well as that of my household by looking out for schools with lesser tuition fees and also next to home to avoid incurring fuel costs,” she shares.

Similar to other parents, Mwima’s children were unhappy settling for low-end institutions from the urban school settings they were familiar with.

Mwima then resorted to communicating her financial position to her children who learnt to accept it.

Professional help
Following Owoyesigyire’s plea to parents and teachers, a number of learning institutions have embraced counselling towards their students on return to school.

According to Dr. Julie Kasamba a professor at Kyambogo University, counselling is a given to all teaching staff and learners as well as the institution has an entire Directorate of guidance and counselling which seats many counsellors.

The educational psychologist resonates with the issues that heavily affected learners throughout the lockdown and attributes the suicidal deaths reported to many factors.

“A choice of school might not be the only reason that a child commits suicide. However, factors such as age, wrong role models, parents absenteeism and upbringing among other are likely to cause high levels of suicide among students,” she outlines.

Dr. Kasamba emphasizes that parents should be present in the lives of their children to ensure that they are brought up in a loving, patient, and trustworthy manner which makes them easily receptive, adjustable and listening towards them.

Additionally, the professor points out that parents should check the home environment of their children to ensure they are learning the right things through the movies they watch.

“Students especially adolescents with irreconcilable issues that come with age, have tendencies of having wrong movie selections. For example; love stories were they see their favorite characters commit suicide hence powerful media effects influencing them to do the same,” she explains.

Nabunya also urges that victims should be enrolled into counselling at least twice a week, not be left alone and continuous assessment by both teachers and parents.

UYDEL

A national non-governmental organization carried out studies exploring the risk factors associated with suicide ideation and attempt among vulnerable adolescents living in poor urban settlements in Kampala, Uganda.

The study was based on analysis of data collected in August 2020 as part of monitoring and evaluation of the project by UYDEL supporting vulnerable adolescents and youth.

The data analyzed were collected from 219 female and male adolescents (13–19 years) recruited through UYDEL.

According to the studies, the most stressful precursors of suicidal ideation or attempt included financial difficulties (59.5%), family breakdown or conflicts (37.4%), and trauma (23.1%).

However, levels of Psychological distress were registered to be lower among adolescents who knew where to obtain professional psychological care.

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