Zimbabwe’s Young Mothers Staring Suicide In The Face

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By Leopold Munhende

WHEN *Shamiso fell pregnant at just 17, her parents forced her to elope.

Supporting her in this instance was regarded as taboo.

Like so many other unfortunate young mothers, she had to endure the tense atmosphere at her in laws’, reliving the harsh tales she had read about especially after giving birth to a daughter.

Without a son and having to endure constant reminders, Shamiso decided she had had enough and overdosed on sleeping pills.

Although she survived and has not tried to commit suicide again, Shamiso told her life is still hell.

“At first I thought the treatment will end once I gave birth, instead it got worse once I gave birth to a girl,” she said.

“I never expected that, I thought that only happened long back but it did to me and eventually I could not take it and overdosed on sleeping tablets.

“Nothing has changed in the manner I am treated but I have grown used to it now.”

Shamiso narrated how she had to endure ridicule from her husband’s family and constant comparison to girls they had hoped he would marry.

Zimbabwe’s suicide rate is the 34th highest in the world according to local fact-checkers, Zim Fact at 14.1/100 000 deaths.

It is the fifth highest in Africa after eSwatini, Lesotho, Botswana and South Africa and has been placed in the top 10 by some indices which categorise countries on age.

Community Psychologist Noreen Kudzanai Wini Dari blamed a culture that ignores mental wellness as the main reason for the steep rate.

“Suicide is very complex and it has been linked to poor mental health,” said Dari.

“As a culture we generally do not think mental health issues characterise us as Africans worse to think this can impact our children, so sometimes it is caused by unattended mental health issues.

“Children just like adults react differently to life challenges and the most important thing for us as parents as a community is to accept this fact and not expect all our children to understand things the same.”

Dari told the situation was worse for ladies, especially those that get pregnant at an early stage in life, such as teenagers.

She said parents are at times not patient with their children which in the end leads them to developing suicidal thoughts.

Added Dari: “They are already  at a stage where a lot is happening as they try to establish their identity, so they do not always see things with the same perspective as adults but in some cases  adults are not patient with them.

“Parent training programmes are one of the things that can be done as it helps parents understand the socio-emotional development that is taking place in their children.”

Shamiso said she had not sought help from psychologists after her ordeal as she never thought of them and would not have had the finances to pay for them even if she had thought about them.

She said she did not know there were any that offer free services locally.

Said Shamiso: “I never thought about visiting a psychologist, maybe because my finances limit me or lack of exposure.

“Up until now I did not know I could get psychological assistance for free and I am sure many others in my situation do not know that.”

*Name protected

This story was funded by SAYWHAT as part of its advocacy work on mental health, precisely targeting the youths and young people.