Elizabeth Andreya Features Writer
An 18-year-old Churchill Boys High student, Takudzwa Nigel Chirindo, who committed suicide at the Julius Nyerere Parkade recently, left Harare residents with many unanswered questions. Following the unfortunate event, Chirindo’s grandmother claimed that the boy ended his life due to depression over examinations and spiritual matters.
It is alleged that before he committed suicide, Chirindo complained that he was being bullied and could not cope.
According to the Mental Health Foundation, depression is a common mental health problem that causes people to experience low mood, loss of interest or pleasure, feelings of guilt or low self-worth, disturbed sleep or appetite, low energy and poor concentration.
Mental health is central to student success and well-being. Over the past decade, schools, colleges and universities have made considerable efforts to promote how and where students can get help for mental health problems.
According to the latest World Health Organisation (WHO) data published in 2017 suicide deaths in Zimbabwe reached 1 641 or 1,30 percent of all total deaths in the country.
A report in The Sunday Mail of August 2019 states that last year alone, five of the more than 10 university students who died were suspected to have committed suicide.
Health professionals say depression and anxiety have become increasingly prevalent among today’s students, with mental health issues being the biggest barriers to doing well in school.
The revelation has left experts calling for strong counselling programmes to assist troubled students as they fear the trend might go down to secondary and primary institutions.
Recently, a local organisation, Someone Always Listens to you (SALT) Africa, in collaboration with the Department of Psychology at the Great Zimbabwe University held belated World Mental Health Day commemorations.
During the commemorations, SALT Africa founder Ms Tafadzwa Meki stressed the importance of communication and interaction inasfar as mental health and suicide prevention is concerned.
Ms Meki said group interactions and peer educators were important factors that can help people who suffer from mental health, especially youths in schools, since they usually don’t have people to share their problems with.
A group of students, S.A.L.T shakers, are more of peer educators that help other learners to solve their problems by talking to them.
Peer education groups and communication among children is important in schools as only a few people can afford seeking help from professional counsellors when they are depressed.
Youth who feel suicidal are not likely to seek help directly; however, parents, school personnel, and peers can recognise only if there is communication.
Pupils and parents should make use of guidance and counselling offices that are available in schools.
They should also make use of psychological services that are being provided by other organisations so that they can have people to talk to and solve their problems.
Schools and universities need to make students more aware of available resources and services, and should take steps to change the culture and attitudes around the topics of suicide and mental health so that more learners feel comfortable and empowered to seek help when in distress.