Worry as five students die in apparent suicide

The Elgon regional police spokesperson, Mr Rogers Taitika. PHOTO/ FILE

What you need to know:

  • Mental health experts say counselling should be mandatory in schools   to help learners cope with challenges.

The death of five students in seven months due to apparent suicide has raised concern about mental health of learners in Bugisu Sub-region.

Last week, two students reportedly hanged themselves in Mbale in separate incidents.

The first incident was reported at Mount Elgon School of Nursing and Midwifery where Alex Wadada, 23, a second-year student on a certificate course committed suicide by hanging in the institution’s toilet. 

Police said the deceased used his vest which he tied on the roof of the toilet.

A student, who requested not to be named in order to speak freely, said: “We had supper together with him and we retired for bed but we were shocked to find him dead the next day. Maybe he had some personal challenges.” 

The source said the deceased appeared to be in high spirits shortly after the meal.  
The Eastern Regional Police surgeon, Dr Barnabas Rubanza, said the postmortem conducted confirmed the student killed himself.

“The neck was elongated and he had a swollen brain, meaning he was not strangled as it was earlier being alleged,” Dr Rubanza, said, adding that the body was handed over to the family for burial as further investigations go on.

The second incident involved a 17-year-old student, who allegedly committed suicide by hanging in his parents’ home in Bulusamba Village, Busiu Sub-county. He was identified as Emmanuel Kimayo, a Senior Three student at Busiu Secondary school in Mbale District.

It is reported that before he allegedly took his life, his mother, Ms Serina Akidingi, had asked him to stop smoking opium.

The Elgon Region Police Spokesperson, Mr Rogers Taitika, said police are investigating the incident. 

Mr Taitika said Kimayo’s body was found hanging from the roof, with a wire around his neck. 
“This situation where youth are taking their lives, is worrying,” he said.

He said some of the past suspected suicide victims include Fred Kaptire and Immaculate Mukite. Both students allegedly committed suicide in February.  Kaptire, who was pursuing a diploma in General Nursing at Islamic University in Uganda Mbale main campus, allegedly ended his life over debts.

Mr Taitika said Mukite, 18, was in Senior Three at Magale Secondary School and a resident of Bumakhono Cell, Bukuto Ward in Namisindwa District.

A teacher, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said Mukite might have committed suicide because she was jilted. “Her boyfriend fell in love with another girl,” the teacher said.
Ms Juliet Namara, the Namisindwa deputy resident district commissioner, said parents need to listen to and counsel their children.
“Children are facing a lot of challenges, which push them into depression. They need counselling from their parents,” Ms Namara said.

Mr Joseph Makwa, the head teacher of Magale Secondary School, said cases of students threatening to kill themselves also rampant in schools.

“Parents should counsel their children, especially about the dangers of suicide,” Mr Makwa, said, adding that students should learn to share their challenges with friends, teachers, parents, and even local leaders.

In February, Catherine Seera, a Senior Three student (name of school withheld on request) and resident of Wafuluya Cell, Magale Town Council reportedly committed suicide after allegedly being ‘‘disappointed in love’’.

According to the annual police crime report, a total of 4,043 cases of homicide were reported to Police by the end of 2022 compared to 3,912 cases reported in 2021, giving a 3.3 percent increase in homicide cases registered countrywide.

Experts speak out

Ms Mary Gimono, a retired health worker, said the number of apparent suicide cases could increase if action is not taken in schools. 

Ms Gimono proposed, among others, that the government should enforce mandatory counselling sessions for students in schools.

“We need professional counsellors in schools and they should be allocated special days to interact with the learners. Let us not assume that learners have no issues just because they are at school,” she said.

Ms Stella Acham, a mental health advocate, said: “The number of people committing suicide is high at community level because of many reasons.”

According to a retired psychiatrist, Dr Isaac Owori ,90 percent of suicides are as a result of mental disorders, and of these, depression is the most common, accounting for about 70 percent.

He also attributed the cause of suicidal thoughts to alcoholism, bipolar personalities, and other substance misuse. 

Other causes, he said include domestic violence, problems with social networks, and sad events in life.

“The rest of the cases of suicidal behaviours are due to stress in daily life, problems in relationships, unemployment, poverty, job loss, and chronic health conditions,” Dr Owori said.