By Phylis Mbanje
“It is so hard to take it in because I could not hear him scream or anything, it is too painful,” those are the heart-breaking words from Farai Munemo’s mother Felistas Mundere.
Munemo would have turned 10 next year, but in unclear circumstances, the Grade 3 pupil at Queensdale Primary School in Harare tied a rope to the wooden beam supporting the roof and hanged himself in their Glenwood Park home.
His case shook many to the core and raised alarm on rising suicide cases in Zimbabwe.
In an audio message, his distressed mother narrated her ordeal which has touched many people and dredged up the sinister subject of suicide.
“I merely reprimanded him for beating up the child,” she said.
Munemo’s father Michael Munemo is still beside himself with grief.
The nine-year-old was his first born.
Michael is still struggling to come to terms with the sad event, describing his son as a quiet and lovely boy.
He does not believe Munemo intentionally ended his life.
He urged parents and guardians to be on alert and to always stay in the loop on what their children are watching on television or reading.
“He was just like any normal child of his age and watched cartoons,” he said.
Radio Maria Zimbabwe director Tendai Reki Mashayamombe, who is also a priest, said children learnt from what they saw and heard.
“When I spoke to Farai’s father, he told me that the boy loved watching one particular cartoon called, ‘Craig of the Creek’.
“The cartoon, which features on the DSTV popular Cartoon Network is about a young black boy Craig who goes on numerous adventures in the creek with his two friends,” Reki said.
“It begins with one character jumping from a high place and that is exactly what Farai was trying to do.”
Michael believes the boy most likely pulled the stunt many times, but this time around things did not go as planned.
“I pray for the Munemo family,” said Reki, who has dedicated an upcoming retreat (28-30th September) to the late Munemo.
Right across town in the quiet medium density suburb of Ashdown Park, Desire Mungoma’s mother is also grieving her son .
A third year Development Studies student at Great Zimbabwe University, Mungoma was found lying dead after taking a poisonous liquid in a bushy area just a few minutes away from his home.
It is believed he ended his life following a misunderstanding with his girlfriend.
As the only child, Mungoma has wrenched his mother’s heart out and she too, like the Munemos, is failing to comprehend how a quiet, well-behaved boy could do something like that.
In a video titled: ‘Inside GZU student Desire Mungoma’s death’ shot by the Students and Youth Working on Reproductive Health Action Team (SAYWHAT) Desire’s mother Svorai Chariga bares all. Her grief and pain is evident.
“I have a lot of unanswered questions. At times I think he will come back home, but when I visit his grave at Glen Forest and see his name I then realise he is gone,” she said wiping away tears.
Svorai cuts a lonely figure as she sits on that chair in front of the camera sharing her last moments with her only son.
Barely three weeks later another student Takudzwa Chifamba, a third-year Journalism student at Harare Polytechnic also took his life after his girlfriend of four years allegedly eloped to another man.
Parents and guardians are unsettled by this dark trend which has also not spared couples. But what are the issues?
Von Mbaya, a psychologist described suicide as a situation where someone is ending his/her own life.
This she explained, may be caused by externally motivated factors or family pressures that put a person in a position of uselessness.
“This is a way of trying to escape pain or suffering which might be caused by depression or other mental illness,” Mbaya said.
“Covid-19 has accelerated the occurrence of suicide cases in communities.
“This is a disease that has brought despair and added salt to some already injured souls.”
The suicide cases have been reported across the gender divide and age groups.
Mbaya said families who are already under pressure because of lack of resources to sustain themselves, are further pushed to the edge of disaster.
The lockdown measures brought conditions that made people lose employment, sources of income as businesses closed or customers are left with no income to spend.
The most affected are women and children.
“Family feuds usually arise when food runs short at home and there is no money to pay rent and for other necessities,” she explained.
“Blame is apportioned to one member of the family as the cause of all this suffering or that he/she lacks the qualities of a family provider.”
Women, Mbaya noted, are usually on the receiving end as domestic arguments may end up getting physical.
“In the Covid-19 situation, causes of suicide cases include societal attitudes towards the infected, affected and stigma which may be shown towards the victims,” she said.
“This gives a sense of rejection to the affected.
“They will feel as outcasts, rejected and avoided, hence they become suicidal.
Lack of financial and social support during the time one is suffering makes pain seem insurmountable and the quick solution of escape from such is suicide.
“Covid-19 creates a situation where a lot of people are idle, with virtually nothing to do,” Mbaya said.
“To while time, some people will use sex as entertainment or time occupier and as a result there will be more unwanted pregnancies and more pressure is brought to bear as resources to support the pregnancy and the resultant child will be scarce.
“The result is domestic violence and rejection of the girl child by parents.”
The mounting pressure, says Mbaya, often leads to suicide.
Girls and boys will think of ending their lives because of such challenges.
Suicide is common in teenagers, reason being parents tend to have a hardline approach on children who then bottle these frustrations and eventually commit suicide.
“Partners in relationships tend to hide their emotions for fear of being labelled attention-seekers,” Mbaya said.
“There has never been a study of suicide in relationships yet the statistics indicate abuse in relationships can lead to suicide.”
Warning signs to watch out for
Mbaya said suicidal signs may be noticed when strange behaviour or out of normal behaviour manifests in an individual with no coping skills due to illness and life stresses.
The usual common warning signs are: talk, behaviour and mood.
“An individual may not exhibit suicidal ideas but be casual and talk in parables,” she said.
“Most suicides are a cry for help or guilt. People may ignore this but regret when a person eventually commits suicide.”
“Behaviour change — This may manifest in the person having excessive use of alcohol or drugs and wanting to remain intoxicated most of the time.
“Withdrawing from activities, choosing to be alone and avoiding friends.
“There will also be changes in personality and attitude. One might suddenly become less concerned about his /her appearance,” said Mbaya.
She also said sleeping too much or too little was another sign.
A suicidal person may sleep more than normal or struggle to get to bed.
Mood swings can be a sign and symptom of a suicidal person as well.
The person can suddenly be angry with anyone, be more argumentative or extra quiet.
The possible prevention solutions according to Mbaya will be careful and full engagement with the suicidal person.
“After observing the signs and symptoms, do not ignore. Listen carefully, observe and talk to the person without judging him/her,” she said.
“Let the person be the one who provides possible solutions during your conversation.”
She also recommends provision for resources of engagement.
“For example, you may notice the person has space for gardening, but does not have resources to work the garden,” she said.
“Provide these or seek help from those who can chip in to provide.
When one is engaged in manual work, it lessens stress.”
In severe cases: “Remove dangerous weapons and chemicals around the person.
“Remove the person from current environment and seek safer environment.”