Urgent Need for a Multilevel Reimagination of Suicide Prevention in Burundi


The   Kayanza police station reported 14 suicides last year 2022, most of the committers are men yet they are believed to be mentally stronger than women.  We spoke with an expert about the causes of suicides and the efforts to be made to prevent them.

At least one suicide per month occurs in Kayanza Province.  Authorities, security officers, religious leaders battle to figure out what are the causes and how to abate the trend but no positive sign.

Alain Joseph psycho-therapist says the step to killing oneself is a result of circumstances an individual undergoes during his or her lifetime. “Several reasons push one to commit suicide, and it is not done directly. It takes some process for one to reach this level of decision,” said Alain Joseph Hatungimana, an expert in psychology and also Executive Director of “Pyschologues sans Vacances” a Burundian association for community psychological care.

Besides that, the suicide can result from chronical mental illnesses especially manic depression (bipolar disorder) and schizophrenia. “Drugs consumption can also lead to suicide,” he added

The difficulties that one faces in his family, society and even at his workplace such as discrimination, disappointments, rejections, etc. can cause self-killing because of unbearable emotional and physical pain. In this case, he/she feels he/she is a burden for himself/herself, his/her family, his/her society as well. Death becomes his/her refuge or the only option to solve these challenges.

He kept on explaining that, most of teenagers take their own lives because of impulsive personality but reiterated that the root cause of all these is the troublesome circumstances that someone lived in the past.

The psycho-therapist says the trending hoaxes from some communities claiming that suicide is due to the witchcraft are wrong. He affirms that the suicide is the aftermath of having felt increasingly hopeless and worthless for some time.

About the question on why more men than women commit suicide he replies It is not very clear why more men than women kill themselves,, but  that might be due to the fact that men always seek to safeguard their honour, prestige and privilege. When they are betrayed, they may choose to put an end to their lives than seek assistance. Instead of losing and appearing weak in the face of others, they prefer dying.

How can we prevent suicidal thoughts?

According to Dr Joti Samra, a Canadian clinical psychologist and healthcare professional, people who have suicidal feelings should ask someone whom they trust to help them understand and solve problems they are dealing with in their lives. She recommends people to think of reasons of living, explaining that most of people who think about suicide want to escape from the pain, but they do not always want to die. From her viewpoint, people should start thinking about the reasons for living . For example, relationships with loved ones, religion, goals, responsibilities for others in their life that give them reasons to live and prevent them from acting  on their suicidal thoughts.

She suggests; “It is good to speak to someone you trust about your feelings and be open about all of your thoughts”. Equally, she calls on people to act appositely to their feelings especially in case of depression when people usually want to be alone: “Effective care from mental health professionals, possibly including medication, can lower the risk that someone will act on suicidal thoughts. In addition, having strong ties to family, friends and community can hearten a depressed person and lessen his or her sense of isolation.”

Suicide is of all modes of death that which leaves in the hearts of the sorrowing survivors the most poignant and the most enduring sting. Its impact on families and communities is far-reaching: grief, stigma, and subsequent increases in psychiatric conditions and suicide rates reverberate over generations. Therefore, efforts must be taken by all stakeholders to prevent it and build a better society it feels safe to live.


Evariste Niyonkuru

Evariste Niyonkuru

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