LVCT Health

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Oct 2019

A counselor experience in saving a suicide mind

Julius*, a 28-year-old man called 1190, (a toll-free and confidential tele-counseling service offered by LVCT Health in Kenya) when he was on the verge of committing suicide. He had lost his house which was built on riparian land, lost his job and lost his car to a loan default. This led to him living in the street and develop a sense of helplessness and hopelessness.

According to the World Health Organization, close to 800,000 people die due to suicide every year. Kenyan statistics by the Ministry of Health, indicate that about 11 million Kenyans suffer some form of mental illnesses that are not taken seriously and are more often discriminated against. Four in five Kenyans who commit suicide are depressed at the time of their death. Suicide is the second leading cause of death among young people aged 10-29 years globally. There are indications that for each adult who died by suicide there may have been more than 20 others attempting suicide.

Julius had been brought up by different relatives after his parents’ separation, the tossing around relatives only made things tough as he lacked someone he could turn to in times of need. All these challenges made him feel unworthy and contemplate suicide. Despite this, he was able to excel in his studies. Luck came calling when a priest saw his potential and decided to support his secondary education.

He passed his end of secondary exams and joined a reputable university in Kenya to pursue studies in medicine. Two years into the course, he opted out to pursue his passion for art and design. He later graduated and enrolled for his post-graduate studies before getting a well-paying job at an international organization. He bought a house, a car of his. At his youthful age, he had achieved all that most of his peers would wish for in life.

It is not a surprise that the loss of his property, brought back his suicide thoughts, he attempted drinking rat poison but failed in his mission. He then decided to ‘give life the last chance,’ (as he puts it) he remembered having seen an 1190 card, offering confidential tele-counseling service.

The 1190 professional counselors offer psycho-social support to clients who are distressed. They also give information on sexually transmitted infections, HIV & gender-based violence and referral services to other state and non-state agencies.

After listening to his ordeals, I invited Julius for a face to face counseling session at the LVCT Health offices. During the first session, I took more details and carried out suicidality and depression tests to confirm if he was depressed and to what extent. The level of suicidality and depression was severe. I then asked Julius to sign a form, which is a binding agreement between a counselor and a client that states that he would not commit suicide as the sessions were ongoing.

After the session, I shared the results with him and referred him for a psychiatric review at Kenyatta National Referral Hospital as I continued to provide psychotherapy. At first, he was hesitant as he recalled a few months ago, he was given anti-depressants which he felt were not helpful, but he soon accepted to give it another try.

Since the client was going through multiple losses, we were able to prioritize the pressing issues that made him want to commit suicide. We discussed how he could look for support from his friends as he searched for a job. One of his friends offered to host him for a few days. Julius has since recovered and called 1190 to inform us he was doing well.

This is just one of the incidents among many that face young people. If you know anyone who is having suicidal thoughts let them know they can reach out to us for support on 1190. We are here for them and it is okay not to be okay.

* Not his real name

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