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The abomination of suicide

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The abomination of suicide




Death by suicide is, at law, a death that comes as a result of non-natural means. On the other hand, the society views the same death as an abomination and most people are heard lamenting the advent of suicide preferring death by natural means which refers to a death that comes as a result of illness and is usually accompanied by hospital cards. Death by either means is a fearsome process that sends nerves to melt at the mention of its visit or when anticipated but pays an inevitable visit to humanity. Life being a one way precious ticket, it is clear that for one to commit suicide and meet with his or her dreaded dying moment he or she must brave himself and prepare for the painful moment. Some even do some researches on how to avoid the pain of separating body and spirit. Either way, this type of death which is self-inflicted is called suicide, usually occurring after one has failed to cope with diverse challenges of life.

However, after one has prematurely ended his or her life, the living are left with the burden of carrying the lifeless body of the now deceased from its final moments position such that it undergoes all pathological processes as dictated by the law  and also confer it with its burial rites as dictated by the society

It is vital to note that the law concerns itself with ruling out foul play at the discovery of the body of the suicide victim whilst the society is mostly concerned with the rites to be conferred upon the body of the now deceased and other related after death traditional rites like “kugova nhumbi”or sharing of the deceased’s property. It is believed that those who commit suicide leave no legacy hence the requirement to bury them with all their clothes.

In Zimbabwe, the Coroner’s Office Act of 2019, requires that a thorough and impartial investigation be carried out to determine the cause of death of one who has committed suicide. The law has to satisfy itself that the now deceased, indeed, met his or her death as a result of suicide. This vital legal requirement leaves no room for stage managed suicide done to cover murder cases. The Coroner’s Office Act, 2019, states that any person who is 18 years and above is charged with the duty of reporting  any non-natural death to responsible authorities and usually the police is the first port of call. Subsequently there is an invitation by the cops to their cop shop for statement recording and this must be understood in the context of foul play removal and not as a matter of nagging by the same cops.

The invitation to the cop shop is a part not liked by many who rather remain numb after discovering the death by suicide than be subjected to questioning by “vana mugara dzakarongwa ” meaning the police. However, our African traditional knowledge systems concur with the dictates of the law and encourage people to report to their traditional leaders upon discovering the body of the now deceased .It is said the dead person will be communicating through the discoverer, hence the need to take heed. In addition it haunts one to encounter a dead body and fail to share with others.

Once reported, in no time the police will arrive at the scene and cautiously remove the body of the now deceased to the mortuary for post mortem to be done by a pathologist and resultantly a post mortem report indicating the cause of death is produced. The cause of death is usually indicated as death by suicide due to the means used to commit the suicide. For example, the cause of death can be poisoning, severe blood loss due to shooting, suffocation or such other causes. The post mortem results then give relatives of the now deceased the much needed go ahead to lay the body of the now deceased to rest as well as the State to satisfy itself that death was not due to foul play but suicide.

In some countries, it is an offence to attempt to commit suicide. One wonders if this is deterrent enough considering that if one decides to commit the abominable act, he will have been in a perceived hopeless situation and punishing him will be tantamount to rekindling the motive to die. Others are of the view that psychotherapy is a good remedy.

Usually, what pains mourners is the period of waiting extending from the date of death until the date of burial. Sometimes it takes unnecessarily long with the police taking their time and the pathologist dissecting the body until they are satisfied with the cause of death. During the mourning process of a non-suicidal death, last respects are given to the body of the deceased but if one commits suicide then it’s an abomination. Our Africa traditional religion forbids normal burial rites to be conferred upon the body of one who dies as a result of suicide. As Africans we believe in escorting the spirit of the loved ones through performing night vigils, mournful songs asking God to accept the spirit of the deceased into his Kingdom. The body of the victim of suicide is not allowed to enter into the homestead and there will be no night vigils, last respects or graveside speeches. In some Shona circles they say “kana ukazviuraya tinokurasa sembwa” meaning to say if one commits suicide they will be buried like a dog..

This practice is common in most Zimbabwean societies. If one commits suicide by hanging the traditional leaders and elders within the affected community would order the tree from which the now deceased hanged himself to be cut down and stumps dug out with the roots and all will be set on fire to avoid similar occurrences. However, this practice has its complexities in the event that one hangs himself from the roof of his house, or dies through carbon monoxide inhalation from the exhaust of his car. Some would then sell the car and the house on the basis of the suicidal abomination.

The society is usually gripped with fear of death by suicide immediately after the occurrence of the sudden death by suicide. Some people are heard cursing the now deceased body saying that the now deceased was not supposed to be overcome by whatever forces that led to the non-natural death. Despite this unimportant corridor talk, society seems not to concern itself about the causes of suicide. 

It is worrisome to note that the number of people who decide to end their lives through suicide continues to rise. The adolescents, the youths, the middle aged as well as the elderly continue to add to statistics of those who die as a result of suicide. Even the rich are not spared. After the unceremonious passing on of loved ones life seems to return to normalcy and soon enough people return to their normal chores after suicide had robbed them of their loved ones. Reasons why people do commit suicide are usually known after the death of a loved one. Suicidal notes discovered by the police during their routine body search are common causal pointers, giving hints as to why one decided to end own life.

Reported suicide cases reveal a number of causes such as hard economic conditions, terminal illness, neglect by family members, emotional dependence, drug and substance abuse, domestic violence, loss of loved ones, access to lethal weapons as well as poison and the family history of suicides.

Economic hardships that our country is going through have led to most people failing to cope with the associated pressures. Most married people are engaged in domestic violence. For example, newspaper headlines were recently made after a Mutare, Bocha Marange couple, both committed suicide by hanging themselves from a tree after a dispute over the size of pot to be used by the now deceased ‘s wife to prepare sadza. It is said that the now deceased’s wife hanged herself after being told by her now deceased husband that the size of pot was big for the available mealie meal.

The now deceased wife just slipped into the darkness of the night and hanged herself. After discovering the death of his wife, the man then reported the incident to neighbours but followed suit leaving the society dumb founded with two bodies. One wonders if this type of suicide can be attributed to domestic violence or economic hardships. What appears plausible is the existence of deep rooted domestic violence emanating from economic hardships. People should learn to open up to others rather than allow hopelessness as well as the spirit of worthlessness to take over.

Those within their adolescence, a rare suicide prone group, are increasingly adding to death by suicide statistics. Reported cases point to issues to do with emotional addictions towards love affairs which are engaged in by the adolescence discreetly hidden from parents. Once the adolescents test the forbidden fruit, they become emotionally attached to their lovers that if parents or guardians were to discover and have one or two harsh words of restraint, the adolescent would have nothing of it and take some poison or rope to end their own life.

Parents or guardians have to be cautious when cautioning this age group to avoid suicide cases. Usually parents adopt a no nonsense approach upon their errand adolescent children. This has to be avoided owing to the different types of media that our children are subjected to. The social media becomes awash with pictures and videos of a primary school child whose body will be lying lifeless in the open before the police arrives. This social media practice of sharing pictures of the dead is contrary to our African culture which forbids children from seeing the dead or coming close to them. Our children emulate what they see and if they see pictures of one who ‘died for love ‘ they too want to emulate that filled with a sense of gratification.

Recent headlines which touched many are those of the numbers of suicide cases emanating from the neglected elderly who appear to be competing with the young in prematurely ending their lives. It is a shame that society, both at the individual or collective levels, no longer consider the welfare of the elderly. Most elderly people appear resilient but struggle to maintain a descent upkeep of themselves and their young siblings. To add insult to injury, our sisters and brothers act as if they are human breeding machines when they are in the city or rural areas. After giving or causing birth, the elderly are left to suffer the brunt of economic hardships, neglect and hopelessness until they unceremoniously end their life. Surely, this is avoidable.

Drug abuse is becoming rampant across all age groups and due to the dependence syndrome one has to sustain the habit at the same time the mind is affected, ending up in hallucinatory moods that result in one being more inclined to suicidal tendencies. We have to join our hands in the fight against drug  and substance abuse as a means to reduce suicides that are drug and substance abuse related.

We have heard of very well to do people ending their lives through shooting self with guns, with the Marondera Business man dominating both print and electronic media headlines. The businessman was legally licensed to possess the firearm as a means of protecting his business earnings from thieves and robbers but to the contrary the family of the businessman ended up being robbed of their dear bread winner as a result of access to guns and other lethal weapons. Powers that be must be thorough in their vetting of firearms licence applicants. 

Though we are not our brother’s keeper, knowing some of the causes of suicide is good. Death is feared by many people, therefore overcoming the fear of death takes time. One has to meditate and premeditate and prepare to end one’s own life. We have to take heed of repeated suicidal threats by those facing situations pregnant with suicidal causes and refer would be victims for early psychotherapy. Suicide is an abomination. 

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