By Carol Kasujja Adii
Kyambogo University to ban use of ropes in halls of residence as a measure to control suicide cases.
According to Prof. Elly Katunguka, Kyambogo University Vice-Chancellor, cases of mental health conditions and suicide cases have been on the rise at the University.
On March 4, Brian Wetaka, a former student of Bachelors of Science in Chemical Engineering, committed suicide at Kyambogo University; he left a suicide note explaining he had decided to end his life due to stress. The deceased having graduated in 2019 had since failed to secure employment. So far three students have committed suicide.
“We have always known that their issues with students with mental issues but we have always left those to the dean of students and the department of Guidance and counselling. Following reports of suicide cases at the institution, we need a policy to guide students on how to prevent them from having access to materials that help them take their life. Like having ropes in halls of residence and not allowing students to have big stalks of medicine,” Prof. Katunguka noted.
Defined as the deliberate act of killing oneself, suicide is a social and public health problem. Globally, it is the 10th leading cause of deaths.
“As a country we need to put in place mechanism to stop students from accessing drugs over the counter to control suicide. They should be regulations to control what drugs what can be sold to young people 18-20 years, as a University we have launched an anti-suicide campaign to extend counseling services to students in hostels, halls of residents, and classrooms,” Prof. Katunguka said.
The Vice chancellor noted that the University has over 29000 students staying in private hostels, in a bid to control them, they are going to partner with those hostel owners so that they put in place strict rules at their hostels to control the students behaviours.
“Students take a lot of alcohol in their hostels, girls get involved in all kinds of relationships with older men and we do not have control over these things. To save our children’s lives, we are going to talk to the owners so that students do not come back to hostels late and avoid hosting men which later lead to depression when the men leave them,” Prof. Katunguka said.
In May 2022, the ministry of Health (MOH) and Uganda Counselling Association report revealed that an estimated 14 million Ugandans suffer from a form of mental disorder.
Winfred Kyosaba Biribonwa, the acting senior University counsellor, noted that as a University, they have realized that situations that causes suicide ideation are relationships, drugs and substance abuse.
“Some students experiment with drugs and alcohol. Others use them when they are going through depression, unaware that they can have a mind-altering effect on their choices. Others especially girls when a boyfriends disappoint them they start thinking of taking their lives. Many students do not know how to handle difficulties such as rejection, disappointment and embarrassment, so a heartbreak can end up causing one to take their life,” Biribonwa said.
Biribonwa noted that to prevent suicide, parents should build relationships with their children to enable them to open up on any matter.
“Be a keen observer of your children and listen to issues they present. Also students should come and talk to us we are here to help them. The University should also increase our budget, we are only three counsellors against students who are over 33000. We need to raise more awareness and intervention,” Biribonwa noted.
Biribonwa also noted that many students with disability live lives of isolation and despair because they are living with disabilities and the environment around them is not accessible.
“Most buildings in the University deny students living with disabilities, access. The university should construct buildings accessible where even disabled students can reach for counselling and guidance,” Biribonwa noted.
Addressing students, Ruth Ssenyonyi, the first president of the Uganda Counseling association, highlighted some of the symptoms like people known to be active, suddenly becoming withdrawn and isolated. Some start having obsessive talk of wanting to die, feeling unimportant, useless and a burden to others. Others become irritable, suffer from anxiety, extreme mood swings, hallucinations and delusional behaviour.
“Hope is a passion for the possible, hope is being able to see that light despite the darkness. In all things, it is better to hope than to despair. You can restore hope to a struggling person. Diffuse suicide attempts. We are supposed to give hope to people and not discourage them. Make mental health a national priority,” Ssenyonyi said.