It doesn’t have to be like this

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BLACK  EDWARD –  AS THE coffin was lowered into the ground at Glen Forest Memorial Park in Harare recently, a visibly shocked bereaved sister — devastated by the untimely death of her brother — whispered: “Why, why, my brother? You left without warning. I look at your coffin and wonder why. Your children are filled with grief and are traumatised . . . it’s hard to believe you took your own life.”

The sister’s emotions epitomise the overwhelming misery experienced by many relatives and friends following a loved one’s sudden death by suicide.

According to the national police spokesperson, Assistant Commissioner Paul Nyathi, more than 2 000 men took their own lives between 2015 and 2019.

The weight of a tanking economy, soaring unemployment and hopelessness is taking its toll on many poverty-weary young men, triggering depression, stress and suicides.

The director of the Global Institute of Emotional Health and Wellness, Tony Friday told the Daily News on Sunday recently that economic challenges ravaging Zimbabwe had made it harder for most men to maintain their mental health.

The country is facing its worst economic crisis in a decade owing to poor governance, bad policies and rampant corruption. Living standards continue to deteriorate. The deterioration is shocking in a country that has abundant resources that include rich mineral deposits, wildlife, arable lands, forests, solar, hydropower, biomass and geothermal energy — enough to make the country a paradise on earth. It is, therefore, painful to see young men taking their own lives — young lives with talent and potential — owing to the meltdown of the economy, so much waste. It doesn’t have to be like this.

By taking their own lives, the young men are giving in to corrupt and incompetent leaders, enabling them to live in comfort when in actual fact it is these clueless leaders who should be held accountable.

By committing suicide they are endorsing the destruction of the once thriving economy and making the looting by corrupt leaders easier since they face no resistance.

Youths, during the oppressive minority rule, did not choose suicide but chose to fight for their rights. Older readers will remember that Rhodesia, now Zimbabwe, was run by a brutal regime of white oppressive minority rulers, who exerted vicious repression and restrictions on the basic rights of the black majority.

Let’s draw lessons from the liberation struggle and think about our country, our families and the future of our children. Emancipatory action, not suicide, should be the way forward.
As a young man what do you want to be remembered for… choosing the seemingly easy way out — selfishness? No!

However, the youths should watch out for factors that lead to suicide.

According to research, one crucial element is communication. It’s too simplistic to say women are willing to share their problems and men tend to bottle them up. But it is true that, for generations, many societies have encouraged men to be “strong” and not admit they’re struggling. It often starts in childhood: “We tell boys that ‘boys don’t cry’,” writes Colman O’Driscoll.

Friday agrees: “Seeking help is perceived as something for the weak…”
Worrying about the family’s next meal or trying to find a job where none exist can aggravate mental health issues for a young men, as well as elements of social pressure and inequality, too.

“We’re brought up our entire lives to judge ourselves in comparison with our peers and to be economically successful,” says Simon Gunning, the CEO of Campaign Against Living Miserably (Calm), a UK-based award-winning charity dedicated to preventing male suicide. “When there are economic factors we can’t control, it becomes very difficult.”

A psychiatrist, Sacrifice Chirisa, said the biggest cause of suicide was depression.

“Suicide is associated with self-guilt, worthlessness and hopelessness. When one reaches hopelessness, suicide is seen as a way of escape of a situation one cannot tolerate,” Chirisa said.

And a quote from Sally Brampton: “Killing oneself is, anyway, a misnomer. We don’t kill ourselves. We are simply defeated by the long, hard struggle to stay alive…”

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