Peer Educators and Counsellors Club (PECC) hosts webinar on suicide awareness

By Sandra Joan

The Peer Educators and Counsellors Club (PECC) recently held an online webinar themed “Debunking Suicide". The event highlighted the issues surrounding depression and suicide, and featured panelists, including professionals in the field, who offered their insights on the topic.

With the suicide rate in Kenya having been on the rise lately, especially since the outbreak of COVID-19 pandemic, PECC found it necessary to have this two-day event and especially during the month of September in commemoration of Suicide Awareness & Prevention Week. Statistics have reported that between the months of March and June this year, over 500 people have committed suicide, a number said to be higher than what was reported in the entire year of 2020. A lot of young people, and in our case university students don’t know how to cope with stress which in turn leads to the development of depression and eventually leads to suicide.

Panelists at the event included Mr. Onyango Otieno (Founder – Afro Masculinity, Co-Founder – Fatuma’s Voice, Host & Producer – Afro Men Podcast, Certified Trauma Coach), Mr. Patrick Obel (Senior Counselor - USIU-Africa), and Lydia Winda (VCT Counselor & Club Patron). The moderators who doubled as the co-chairs of the event were Ms. Sandra Joan (Head of PR & Marketing –PECC) and Ms. Wandia King’ori (Vice Chairperson – PECC).

Speaking on mental wellness and masculinity in the African male context, Mr. Onyango Otieno noted that it was high time that society unlearned the unhealthy definitions of masculinity, and learn healthy communication, adding that it was important to encourage and celebrate the expression of emotions specially in boys from a young age.

The event also featured a panel session led by the University’s Counselling Office. Ms. Lydia Winda and Mr. Patrick Obel defined what suicide and depression were, and laid out the risk factors for the former while helping us break the stigma surrounding them. They educated the attendants on what the appropriate language use is when talking about a person with suicidal ideations or who has attempted to take their own life before. Ms. Noel Lusega (Senior Counselor at USIU-Africa) and Lucy Kung’u (Head Counselor at USIU- Africa) took the audience through the psychology behind suicide and answered questions from the attendants regarding how to be there for a loved one going through the same or for their family members after they have laid a loved one to rest.

The session ended with a testimonial session from a student, Ms. Joyce Wanjiku who spoke about her experience living with bipolar disorder and depression and helped humanize the person behind the suicidal attempts and verbalize what it feels like to actually have suicidal ideations.