Chiwaya’s suicide ignites public debate to reflect on mental health awareness

Late Chiwaya, described as very intelligent, analytical and critical on issues of politics in Malawi

* When faced with challenges such as this, people should confide in others

* Leaving a suicide note was a premeditated decision which is linked to depression

* A person feels the only way to be peaceful is to leave this earth but that’s not a solution

* Malawians urged to use Mental Health Awareness Month in October to reflect and find solutions

* World Mental Health Day will be celebrated on October 10 under the theme is ‘Mental Health in an Unequal World’

Analysis by Duncan Mlanjira

Hot debate rages on as the news sinks in that former Deputy Speaker of Parliament, Clement Chiwaya committed suicide by shooting himself in the head — describing the incident as a serious mental health issues that the country is facing as one of the social decay.

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And by carrying out his gruesome act in front of the Clerk of Parliament, Fiona Kalemba, some members of the public are sympathetic with her and demands an explanation as it links with some benefits which Parliament owes with Chiwaya — as explained in his suicide note.

Because of the suicide note, it is apparent that this was a premeditated decision which is linked to serious depression as a mental health issue.

Feeling very sad of the unfortunate incident, Mwiza Mphande urges people on Facebook that when faced with challenges such as this, they should confide in others and also “cry out to God when people don’t seem to satisfy our needs”.

He held a PhD

“The best apology to his children as indicated in the [suicide] letter he left would have been to remain alive. Suicide [can be] contagious within the family and it leaves pain to the coming generation.

“I understand he went through post polio trauma, I understand when having depression the emotion part of a person takes over and it’s hard to act normal because things around don’t add up.

“A person feels the only way to be peaceful is to leave this earth but that’s not a solution. There are better ways. We are all destined to live and fulfill our dreams until we succumb to natural selection rather than suicide.”

Martin Mponda asked Malawians — rich or poor — “to stay away from fire arms” and expressed dismay that many Malawians are having guns nowadays “which is not our culture”.

Interacted with important world figures

Another commentator described this “demon of suicide” as being on the rampage in the country of late, prompting Isabel Kazanga Chiumia to comment that “many people are going through challenges, pain and suffering” and as such “life can push you to your limits”.

“You feel weak and defeated, you can lose hope and life doesn’t make sense anymore. In such moments, most people do not know what to do or where to turn to for help.

“And sometimes people ask, if God is good, why does He allow pain and suffering? Why does God allow bad things to happen to people? Well, we suffer because we live in a world of suffering.

“Even Jesus suffered, and we are not exempted from it. It is written, ‘woe to the earth and the sea, because the devil has gone down to you! He is filled with fury, because he knows that his time is short’. (Revelation‬ ‭12:12‬).

“‘The truth is life spiritual. The devil comes to kill, steal and destroy, but Jesus came so that we may have life, and have it more abundantly (John‬ ‭10:10‬)‭.

“‘Be alert, be on watch! Your enemy, the Devil, roams around like a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour. Be firm in your faith and resist him, because you know that other believers in all the world are going through the same kind of sufferings’. (1 Peter‬ ‭5:8-9‬).

“No matter what you are going through or the pain you are feeling right now, keep praying and trusting God. He will help you and He will see you through. He promises that, ‘I will be with you always, to the end of the age’ Matthew‬ ‭28:20‬.

“That pain or problem is not there to destroy or break you. Never give up, keep moving forward. You will come out strong and victorious, in Jesus name!” preached Isabel with Brian Kansichi Banda joining to say: “The devil is lurking over our nation. We need to stay strong in faith and God will see us through.”

Meanwhile, Malawians are being urged to use Mental Health Awareness Month — which will be observed from Friday throughout October — to reflect and find solutions to mental health problems following the increasing cases of suicide.

According to Connect Plus Resource Institute (CPRI) — a local social enterprise organization dedicated to providing mental health and wellness services and solutions in Malawi, the theme of the Mental Health Awareness Month is ‘Together making mental health a part of our everyday life’.

On October 10 is the annual World Mental Health Day, whose theme is ‘Mental Health in an Unequal World’.

In a statement this week, CPRI Chief Executive Officer Dennis Mwafulirwa said Malawi has recently registered a sudden rise in suicide cases, a development mental health experts have attributed the absence of psychosocial support services in most parts of the country.

Dennis Mwafulirwa

He said the purpose of the Mental Health Awareness Month is to help create a space to normalize conversations around mental health and mental illness.

It is also to engage media on best practices in reporting mental health and suicide related news to help strengthen understanding of these issues by the public, debunk related myths or misconceptions and reduce stigma.

He also said the on the World Mental Health Day itself, they plan to organise a Big Walk in Lilongwe to promote its literacy.

A lot of people in Malawi and around the world today face the reality of living with a mental health condition/illness and that an estimated 1 billion people worldwide are living with a mental disorder.

Mwafulirwa said 3 million people die every year from the harmful use of alcohol, and one person dies every 40 seconds by suicide and “this reality has been heightened during the CoVID-19 pandemic that impacted many people”.

Deal done between SPARC and Caring Hands

Just recently, Caring Hands Center Limited, a non-profit organization that promotes mental health awareness and the importance of a healthy mental wellbeing, partnered with one of Malawi’s top ICT companies, SPARC Systems Limited to develop a mental health awareness App.

The Mental Lab App shall promote a culture in which the public  should be abreast of the importance of keeping good mental health as it will simulate the automation of processes involved when one seeks mental health therapy.

In an interview, Caring Hands’ founder and managing director, Christine Mhone said the app “will automate the processes of awareness to individuals who are mentally disturbed or who are stressed and anxious, and are seeking therapy to ease their state”.

“It will also automate the activities involved when individuals are trying to reach out to service providers (therapists) by providing a feature that will enable them to remotely book therapy sessions.

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“To minimize face-to-face interactions in this time of CoVID-19 pandemic, the mobile app will also automate this process by providing a user interaction platform feature that will enable them to chat, discuss various mental health issues and interact with each other in a group format.”

Harry Kasandala, acting Group Head of Sales & Marketing for SPARC Systems Africa, said the CoVID-19 has affected many through mental health issues in one way or another, such as having been stressed up from the struggle on how to put food on the table and make ends meet.

“Most people are struggling thinking about how they will face the next day. Some of the people end up into alcohol and illicit drug abuse or even considering committing suicide.

“Thus SPARC Systems felt obliged to partner with Caring Hands to help have a better national health wise whose people can become productive citizens of this country.”

He is said to have had clear plans about his future

In his comment on Facebook, Chrispine Sibande pays his tribute to the former legislator, saying “he was very intelligent, analytical and critical on issues of politics in Malawi”.

“I admired him as a very successful man mentally and physically despite the disability. He had clear plans about his future,” continues Sibande.

“When such things happen, one is reminded of the moments you spent with the person…In my work with Malawi Government and Parliament, there were days I could spend time with him, analyzing and strategizing on our work. These are the days Hon. Clement Chiwaya could share personal stories and personal struggles as a person with physical disabilities.

He was a very devoted Catholic, he was very appreciative of what the Catholic Church had done for him and thanked individuals in Mangochi Diocese and the Bishops. He used to mention Catholic nuns too.

“He used to thank the people in USA who helped him to achieve what he had achieved. Therefore, it is very sad to learn that there were moments he had to give up.

“So this is one example where we learn that he gave up and shot himself because Parliament secretariat didn’t want to give him his benefits. It is said he felt bad that he was becoming a beggar. It’s sad!

“He fought many battles with his physical disability. It’s sad that he reached a point where he thought he can no longer live. Only God knows why. May his soul rest in peace!”

United Democratic Front (UDF) president Atupele Muluzi described Chiwaya’s death as shocking to all of his party faithful to which he belonged.

“At this time, let us pay solemn homage to one of Malawi’s finest sons,” writes Atupele on Facebook. “Against all odds that life had presented, Dr. Clement Chiwaya rose to become a senior member of our National Executive, Member of Parliament for over 15 years, successful  businessman, former Cabinet Minister and former Deputy Speaker of our National Assembly.

“He was intelligent, a loyal friend, advisor, a family man and devoted to his faith. My condolences go to his family during this tragic time and we pray that the Almighty comforts them. May you rest well, Brother, and untill we meet again.

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