Shedding Light On Hope Amidst Despair
Amid an overwhelming hopelessness, Nazrawit Tesfaye, a graduate of Jima University, expressed her inner turmoil through a haunting Facebook post. “Benhed Yeshalenal”, literally meaning we would rather go away, was the last words she shared with the world on her Facebook page, signifying her tragic final plea for help or maybe goodbye. Nazrawit’s social media presence had been marked by glimpses into her ongoing battle with depression, a silent struggle that weighed heavily on her soul. Her heart-wrenching story is not an isolated incident; a wave of desolation has swept across the youth in Ethiopia, their cries for help echoing through the virtual realm. In a world where the impact of these struggles is increasingly felt, we must delve into these heart-touching narratives, opening our hearts and minds to the profound pain that silently engulfs so many, writes EBR’s Eden Teshome.
A troubling crisis is unfolding in Ethiopia, a country of vibrant culture and rich history. Stories of young people resorting to suicide as a result of depression, which in many cases stem from the country’s unstable economy, civil war, and rampant inflation, are becoming headlines in social media. The country’s youth face numerous challenges in a country plagued by economic instability. High unemployment, lack of job opportunities, and widespread poverty create an environment of hopelessness. The constant struggle to make ends meet takes a toll on mental well-being, pushing some to contemplate suicide as a desperate escape from their bleak reality.
Ethiopia has faced prolonged civil unrest and conflicts stemming from political and ethnic tensions. Added to this complexity is a religious tension that has started storming the nation as of recently. This volatile environment exacerbates feelings of despair and disillusionment, further contributing to the rise in suicidal tendencies among the youth.
Sara Ahmed, a 26-year-old radio host and journalist, bares her soul with courage and vulnerability. Her battle with depression has led her to commit a suicide attempt not once but three times.
Sara’s journey as a survivor of suicide attempts was laden with obstacles that extended far beyond her internal struggles. With its well-intentioned yet misguided questions, the society added an extra layer of burden to her already heavy heart. People wondered aloud, “Why would she consider taking her own life?” and accused her of selfishness, failing to comprehend the complexities of mental health battles.
“The most significant challenge I have encountered as a suicide survivor is the judgmental attitudes of others. People often asked me why I would contemplate taking my own life, implying that I was selfish for not considering the impact it would have on my mother’s emotions, “said Sara.
“Being a suicide survivor is an incredibly challenging journey, influenced by various factors. One aspect that people often highlight is my fluctuating faith in my religion. Additionally, there are instances in life where we experience sadness, and during those moments, I find myself questioning why I even survived.” She speaks with a breaking voice
Suicide is a grave global concern, with the World Health Organization (WHO) reporting approximately 800,000 deaths annually; making it the second leading cause of death among individuals aged 15-29. These staggering figures underscore the urgent need for comprehensive mental health support and resources on a global scale.
Within this global crisis, South Africa stands out with the highest suicide rate in Africa. With 23.5 suicides per 100,000 individuals, the country faces significant mental health challenges. Factors such as socioeconomic disparities, high levels of violence, and limited access to mental health services contribute to the distressing rates.
“The reasons behind suicide can be complex and multifaceted, as each individual’s circumstances and experiences are unique,” says Alemayehu Tibebe, General Manager at Impact Ethiopia, Psychological Services and Public Health Consulting plc.
Mental health issues, such as depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, or substance abuse disorders, are often associated with suicidal behaviour. These conditions inflict immense emotional pain and feelings of hopelessness, making individuals more susceptible to suicidal thoughts.
“Moreover, social isolation and a lack of support networks can exacerbate suicidal tendencies. Feeling disconnected from family, friends, or society, and experiencing a sense of alienation or loneliness can intensify feelings of despair.” Alemayehu explains.
“I’m currently undergoing therapy, which has been instrumental in my healing process. On difficult days when I feel overwhelmed by depression, I find solace in confiding in supportive friends who lend a listening ear.” Sara explains her struggles. “While I haven’t been able to access professional support groups or specialized treatments, the combination of therapy and the support from my friends has proven immensely helpful in my journey towards recovery.”
Complex life events and personal crises, such as the loss of a loved one, relationship problems, financial hardships, or overwhelming stressors, can push individuals to contemplate suicide. “It’s important to note that financial problems are often highlighted, but we must not neglect the struggles of those who don’t face financial difficulties.”
In the realm of celebrity, it’s easy to assume that wealth and success shield individuals from despair. However, tragic stories of celebrities who have taken their own lives reveal the profound impact of loneliness and emotional anguish. “These cases remind us that mental health knows no boundaries and that feeling of isolation can affect anyone, regardless of their financial standing,” says Alemayehu.
Understanding the complexities surrounding suicide helps us create a more empathetic and supportive society. By prioritizing mental health, fostering connections, and offering resources for those who need the support, we can work towards preventing suicide and providing hope for those facing the darkest of times.
Alemayehu says, “Addressing these issues requires immediate action. It is crucial to prioritize mental health initiatives, combat stigma, and enhance access to services.”
“Our generation confronts a multitude of challenges, including unemployment and various other life obstacles. In light of these hardships, I strongly advocate cultivating a culture of compassion and care towards one another. It is essential to recognize that every individual carries their own burdens and pains that can deeply affect their day and night.” Sara thinks that fostering empathy and understanding can create a supportive community where people feel seen, heard, and validated in their struggles.
Amidst the gloomy reality of Ethiopia’s suicide crisis, stories of survival and resilience provide a glimmer of hope. One such story is that of a three-time suicide survivor whose journey showcases the strength of the human spirit and the power of seeking help. Sara’s experiences serve as an inspiration to others struggling with suicidal thoughts, reminding them that there is hope and a brighter future beyond their pain.
“I’m in a much better place now after undergoing therapy. I have rediscovered the beauty of life and realized that there are abundant options and opportunities available to me. Through my experiences, I have come to understand that when one door closes, another one opens. This newfound perspective has filled me with hope and optimism for the future.” Sara tells her current situation.
Sara has made the courageous decision to continue her journey following her experience with suicide, symbolized by the semi-colon tattoo. The semi-colon represents the ongoing narrative of her life, acknowledging that her story is not over. It is a powerful reminder that she has chosen to persevere, embrace hope, and keep writing the chapters of her life, even in the face of adversity.
The semi-colon tattoo has emerged as a powerful and meaningful symbol among suicide survivors worldwide. This punctuation mark, representing a sentence that could have ended but didn’t, carry a profound message of resilience and choice. It serves as a constant reminder that even in the darkest moments, individuals have the power to continue their story, seek help, and find hope. The growing trend of getting a semi-colon tattoo reflects the courage and determination of those who have faced their battles with suicide. It not only raises awareness about suicide prevention but also creates a sense of community and solidarity among survivors, inspiring others to choose life and embrace the journey ahead.
“Ethiopia faces immense challenges for its youth, but there is hope. By prioritizing mental health support, implementing suicide prevention programs, and addressing economic instability and civil unrest, Ethiopia can empower its youth,” says Alemayehu. EBR
12th Year • Nov 16 – December 15 2023 • No. 123