What you need to know:
- The North Kyoga regional police spokesperson, Mr Patrick Jimmy Okema, acknowledges that the area continues to register several cases of suicide but they are not recorded in the official police record books.
The rate of suicide and attempted suicide among children in Lango sub-region is rising, with one incident occurring on average every week.
The problem is blamed mainly on domestic violence and unmanaged mental illnesses.
With a population of about 2.1 million people, four children below 17 years are killing themselves every month in the sub-region, according to data from North Kyoga Region Police.
The most recent case involved an eight-year-old girl who ended her life in Kwania District on September 22. The victim identified as Elly Akello allegedly hung herself using a mosquito net in Nambieso sub-county.
It is reported that the child took her life after a disagreement with her siblings over who should wash the utensils. The incident happened in the absence of their parents.
In May, a similar incident was reported in the neighbouring Amolatar District where a 17-year-old girl committed suicide after her father spanked her for returning home late. The body of Miriam Anyango, who was a Senior Two student, was found hanging on a tree near their family home in Aputi Sub-county.
The North Kyoga regional police spokesperson, Mr Patrick Jimmy Okema, acknowledges that the area continues to register several cases of suicide but they are not recorded in the official police record books.
He also notes that many of the suicide cases go unreported.
“Of late, we have been receiving so many cases of suicide in the sub-region but they are not reflected in our record books since the law does not allow us to record actual suicide in our records. We only record attempted suicide that helps us in making follow-ups,” Mr Okema says.
“However, as these incidents occur, we as police are always notified and we take interest to understand its possible causes,” he adds.
Although some locals attribute most of the cases to domestic violence and hard economic conditions, mental illness has also been blamed.
A senior psychiatric clinical officer at Lira Regional Referral Hospital, Mr Francis Ecel, says 90 percent of suicide victims suffer from mental health conditions. He notes that about 20 percent of people experience conditions such as depression and schizophrenia.
“A person suffering from schizophrenia develops disorganised perceptions about life. They hear voices talking to them and they also develop some false beliefs in their minds that some people are disturbing or want to kill them,” Mr Ecel explains. The high consumption of alcohol and other illicit drugs among the young population is the main cause of mental illness, which has further led to increased suicide cases, according to Mr Ecel. Mr believes that continuous sensitisation of the community and more psychosocial support to mental health patients could help in reducing the suicide cases.
The prime minister of the Lango Cultural Foundation, Mr James Robert Ajal, says the high level of cultural erosion at family level is to blame for the problem. “Parents don’t communicate with their children and that makes it very hard for the children to freely speak about any life challenges that they may be going through,” he said.
The Lango Cultural Foundation is now in advanced stages to work together with the police and other stakeholders to engage the community members in a massive dialogue and sensitisation exercise.
But the North Kyoga regional police spokesperson says reaching out to various villages may not be easy since the Force does not have a budget and transport means to facilitate their movement.
According to a 2021 World Health Organisation report, at least 700,000 people take their own lives every year globally, making it one of the leading causes of death after HIV and road accidents. In Uganda, suicide stands at 18 percent.