Mental Health and the taboo that is suicide

By Kudakwashe Banda

So often in society, I have found that suicide, along with other mental health issues are often misunderstood and frowned upon as something that is a demonic issue and that should have no place in anyone’s life. In this article we will look at suicide in particular, and how one can help someone in their life who is contemplating suicide.

A few days ago I came across a radio show in which the suicide of a young adult male was being debated on. Suicide is nothing new, though it is worryingly on the rise of late in Zimbabwe, but what made this suicide make headlines is the fact that the man had threatened suicide on several occasions prior and had never gone through with it. A few weeks ago he again threatened suicide to his mother and she told him where in the house he could find poison to kill himself. He proceeded to take the poison and after a few minutes his father chased him out of the house and said he did not want him to die in his house so the young man went and sat across the road in an open veldt. His parents then left and he went back into the house where upon their return they discovered he had passed away. The story goes on but what I would like to focus on is how he had behaved prior to this final successful suicide attempt. He had often threatened on previous occasions that he would kill himself. This sort of behaviour is in itself an indication that one is experiencing a mental disturbance if they get to a point where they are expressing such strong emotions. People who threaten suicide on several occasions are eventually accused of “crying wolf” and it can become exhausting for those around them. They are then left to suffer until they either ‘get over it” or in the case of this young man eventually succeed in taking their own life.

It is prudent that when a loved one comes to you and expresses such a feeling or urge, to sit down and take the time out to hear them and where possible seek counsel for them through various channels. The expression of suicide is often a symptom that mentally and emotionally, things are not sitting well and are not well balanced in an individual. In our society suicide is looked upon as something that is taboo and should have no place in one’s emotions or thought processes. However the reality of life is that mental illness can often imbalance the chemicals in the brain to such an extent that one becomes so disturbed and can no longer grasp the concept of reality and living a normal life. Traumatic events may also lead to emotional disturbances where one is in so much pain or traumatised that daily normal living becomes a struggle and the only way they can solve this is to end it all. Threats to commit suicide should never under any circumstances be taken lightly when they are expressed, and the earlier they are addressed in a helpful manner, the easier they will be able to be resolved.

How to help a loved one who is contemplating suicide

Pay attention to statements such as “I want to end it all” or “The world would be better off without me”. Encourage them to talk more about it and ask how you may offer support. It is important to listen without judgement.
Where possible encourage/help them to seek professional help. In this case, the first step is to see a General Practitioner who gives a primary assessment and will then refer them to a specialist or a public hospital to seek assistance for mental health. Parirenyatwa Hospital has the Annexe Unit which offers in-patient and out-patient treatment. Sally Mugabe Hospital also offers the same facilities with a team of professionals available to offer treatment.

Reach out to The Friendship Bench. This community based organisation offers a safe place to talk for anyone who is struggling with their mental health and is contemplating suicide. All help and counselling is offered in a safe and confidential environment. It is also free of charge. For further information on The Friendship Bench visit Or contact +263 784 845 294.

Please remember, thoughts or threats of suicide no matter how trivial they may seem, should always be taken seriously.