Three weeks ago, a 21-year old Rwandan was found dead, from an apparent suicide. The youngster lived with his parents and siblings in Gisozi, a Kigali suburb. Everyone who knew him was shocked by his demise, especially those closest to him and his family. He lived a regular life not different from anyone his age, many acquaintances said. He also appeared to be in good health, at least on the outside. According to his friends, he was active on social media. His last Instagram post, which he published a week before his death, was cryptic with some calling is a farewel messagel. He implored his followers to spread love and kindness. Following his demise, many of his friends took to social media, urging one another to check in on each other frequently, as one never knows what the other is going through. Certain signs, such as hopelessness, prolonged sadness, excessive fear, worry, or anxiety, sudden mood swings, self-isolation, and extreme changes in eating patterns (too much or too little) or sleeping patterns, are some of the redflags to watch for, according to experts. However, some suicide victims show none of these until they take their lives. The Rwanda Investigation Bureau says that at least 579 people committed suicide in Rwanda between June 2019 and July 2021. And, according to the World Banks collection of development indicators, Rwandas suicide mortality rate was 5.6 percent in 2019. Experts’ views Experts say young people are increasingly finding themselves vulnerable to different mental health challenges. Weve seen a growing number of young people who come to us. They are overwhelmed, confused, and disillusioned, said Leocadia Kabibi Nkusi, a psychologist at Never Again Rwanda. Majority of them are sleep-deprived, addicted to the internet, drugs or alcohol and confronting societal pressures such as struggling to obtain jobs, she noted. All of these dysregulate their brains, which makes them depressed. However, depression is not an illness; rather, it is a warning that something has to be done. Speaking to The New Times, Dr Cindy Cassady, a clinical psychologist at Ndera Neuropsychiatric Hospital, reiterated that young people are more exposed to social media and cyberbullying than anybody else. This often raises feelings of inferiority, low self-esteem, and inadequacy. “We don’t see many photos on Facebook of someone’s bad weekend or a date gone bad. Instead, we see smiling pictures in a glamourous setting embracing the person of their dreams. It’s only natural to compare oneself to the onslaught of photographic perfection on social media and feel that you are missing out or something is wrong with you,” she said. “There is also an increasing evidence that there is post-genocide epigenetic transmission of depression and mental health disorders from one generation to another,” Dr Cassady added. Transgenerational trauma According to Dr Cassady, the 1994 Genocide against Tutsi not only harmed the mental health of adult Rwandans at the time, but it affected their parenting styles in raising their children because of trauma and difficulty in being emotionally available to their children.” She said some young Rwandans whose parents are genocide survivors hid their mental health challenges to their parents because it sparked feelings of ungratefullness and embarrassment. “Young people measure the validity of their depression against what their parents’ experienced and feel it is insignificant in comparison.” “The problem with this is that these youth are living silently with depression that continues to destroy them because they feel they can’t share their pain or that people will not understand them.” Happy people do not kill themselves, “Feeling that there is no hope for the future, can lead someone to think death is the only option,” Dr Cassady adds. “The fear of being a burden to family, experiencing chronic pain and poor health, feeling overwhelmed with financial and family responsibilities can all lead someone to feel that being dead is better than continuing to struggle.” One notable study by Joseph Muwonge looked at youth ages 20-35 years old and found the prevalence of suicidal ideation was more than two times higher in women (21%) compared to men (8%). Similarly, more women than men had devised a suicide plan (7% women, 1.8% men) and attempted suicide (4.7% women, 1.4% men) within one month of a hospital visit. However, Rwandan men (and men globally) tend to execute their suicide plans more than women. The leading causes of suicidal thinking in women is linked to depression, experiencing daily physical pain, and/ or stressful life situations such as exposure to intimate partner violence. For men, the correlation was related to having severe depression. Dr Cassady encourages people to get regular screening for suicidal thinking at health centers and district hospitals as part of a general medical checkup. “Simply asking questions about suicidal thinking does not cause a person to become suicidal. Instead, it offers them an opportunity to talk about their feelings of hopelessness and seek help,” she said. If you are in Rwanda and experiencing mental health challenges, please call 8015 to recieve free and confidential emotional support. The line is operational 24 hours a day, seven days a week.