SUICIDE is a topic that has been taboo for many years.
However, in recent times, it has become a major topic of discussion, especially given the increasing rate of suicide cases countrywide.
It’s especially disconcerting to know that even those who are supposed to provide spiritual and emotional support to others, especially the clergy, are not immune to this unfortunate trend.
The question now is — what do ordinary people do when those who should be counselling them are taking their own lives?
Suicide has become a growing concern and, sadly, it’s now common not just among ordinary people but even the religious leaders.
Just last week, United Methodist Church senior pastor, Reverend Oscar Mukahanana, took his life after being caught in an adulterous affair with a female congregate.
His suicide was just one of many among pastors and church leaders who have found themselves unable to cope with the stresses that come with such positions.
An audio conversation of Rev Mukahanana and the woman, after their sexual encounter at a lodge, was leaked onto the church’s WhatsApp group.
Rev Mukahanana just couldn’t bear the shame and decided to take his own life.
He ingested rat poison at a lodge in Eastlea where his body was found.
His action shows that religious leaders face unique challenges that can increase their risk of suicide.
They often find themselves in positions where they are expected to have all the answers, provide support and guidance to their congregations, and cope with the pressures of leadership.
Additionally, many people tend to put pastors and other religious leaders on a pedestal, expecting them to be perfect.
This can lead to isolation when they struggle with personal issues, which can be further exacerbated by the lack of training on mental health issues.
For instance, there are relatively no local seminaries or theological institutions that offer courses in psychology or counselling. In many cases, suicide may be traced to mental illnesses such as depression, anxiety and bipolar disorder.
So, what can ordinary people do when those supposed to counsel them are suffering from similar struggles?
The first step is to understand that they are also human beings and can face difficult times like everyone else.
As such, we should be empathetic and offer our support wherever we can.
It’s also important that religious leaders start openly discussing mental health issues and seeking help when necessary.
Therefore, one of the ways people can help is by creating a stigma-free environment that encourages open dialogue about mental health issues.
This can mean getting involved in mental health awareness campaigns at religious institutions and supporting counselling services.
It is essential that pastors and other church leaders know they can seek professional counselling when they require it.
Congregations also need to create support networks that extend beyond the pastor or clergyman.
This could include trained peer counsellors or connecting with mental health experts in the community.