For so long we have asked for safe spaces but I want an open space.
I want an open space where I can talk about my suicide attempts, yes attempts, without fear of the government and their penal code jumping on me.
I want an open space where I can tell people how it felt right before I took that handful of drugs without the church excommunicating me.
I want an open space where I won’t be considered weak when I say that when I hit the depression side of my bipolar, I think of suicide and how the world would be without me.
I want an open space where I can still be a successful social entrepreneur and innovator whose triumphs are not applauded just because of hard work and smart thinking but also recognize the inspiration drawn from those moments when I planned to take my life and failed.
I want an open space where despite my struggles with suicide, I can still be a good citizen, an upright Christian, a strong award winning change maker.
The first time I ever thought of and attempted suicide was 12 years ago.
I had just gotten raped and I knew I can’t do this life thing anymore, if this was living…then I am not cut out for it.
As much as I have talked about my rape ordeal and the mental health issues it brought, the amazing mental health organization (My Mind, My Funk) I now run as a result plus the FREE SMS helpline, 22214 I began in an attempt to make mental health info and support accessible to many...suicide has been one of those things I feel I never really got the space to openly address.
Why would you want to speak about suicide you ask, why wouldn't I, i ask back?
We focus so much on the do not commit suicide part of things and forget the part where you have contemplated or attempted suicide how can we help you not to get there again part. Statistics show that those who have attempted are most likely to try again, what are we doing? I have been very passionate about this but never really got a way round it till now. Before I have done posts about suicide, when I had the project in Kibera, suicide was one of the things we discussed in one of the sessions, I remember travelling to Nyeri and visiting Befrienders to see how they support people who call in feeling suicidal and for those who know, I actually began the helpline as my contribution towards providing a space for people who feel alone and suicidal to share.
On a National Scale, the last time we spoke about suicide was when Robin Williams, who wasn’t even a Kenyan, passed on. We have had sons and daughters of prominent people here committing suicide but we won’t speak about it. Universities are full of stories of students who took their lives, every homestead has a story, so what makes suicide such a feared topic?
In my quest to find answers to that question and find more questions we don’t dare ask, I am collecting narratives from people who have attempted suicide or lost a loved one through suicide. The aim of this project is to open spaces in people's heart that have been filled with guilt and shame after a suicide attempt, open spaces in families to discuss this hushed subject.
Last year September, which is suicide prevention month, I launched what is Kenya's first and only FREE mental health SMS line 22214 through which people can get info and support. To date we have gotten over 19000 hits on the line.
This coming Suicide Prevention month, I am collecting narratives. Once we get the narratives, we will do pictorial representations for an exhibition and also see if some of the people are comfortable sharing their faces or parts of their household items or items of someone who they loved that committed suicide. The exhibitions will be in both online and offline spaces where discussions on suicide and mental health in general will be held.
So far I have partnered with Patricia Esteve (http://patriciaesteve.com), a photographer who will do the pictorial bit of things and Project Semicolon (http://projectsemicolon.com) an international movement that uses the semi colon as a symbol of hope with the tag line; my story isn't over, neither is your...the logic behind it is to use it as used in the English Language to mean the sentence goes on...simply tell people that their story is not over. My organization, My Mind My Funk and the FREE SMS 22214 are also on standby to provide psychological support to everyone who contributes and need help in their healing journey.
I'd appreciate if you shared this post in your networks and if you have an idea on how I can amplify this campaign or a way you think you can support or partner with this project; making videos, a better poster, printing tshirts, tag lines, media links, social media campaign feel free to share with me.