On July 2, Hussein Walugembe, a boda-boda cyclist from Masaka, walked into Masaka Central Police Station, doused himself in petrol and set himself ablaze. In a news report published by this paper, Walugembe’s motorcycle had reportedly been impounded for violating curfew guidelines. According to his friends, since this was his only source of income, he decided to commit suicide after failing to reach an agreement with the officers in charge on when he would get his motorcycle back.
Two months before the incident, on May 12, another story was published by several media houses in the country. A 30-year-old man in Kabale District had committed suicide by hanging after he allegedly failed to raise Shs1,000 to buy salt for his family.
Justina Nakimuli, a psychiatric specialist based in Manchester, United Kingdom, who also runs a private practice in Kampala, says men are more prone to suicidal behaviour because their lives are driven a lot by testosterone. “An average man never discusses his feelings of failure or pain,” she says.
According to a 2011 study, ‘Ugandan Men’s Perceptions of What Causes and What Prevents Suicide’, “…the rates of both suicide and nonfatal suicidal behaviour are higher for men than for women.” The study was conducted by Professor Eugene Kinyanda, the head of Mental Health Project at Medical research council and Uganda Virus Research Institute (MRC/UVRI) and was supported by three Norwegian professors.
“Ugandans are squeezed by poverty, unemployment, high rates of premature death, and insecurity regarding prospects for the future. According to the World Health Report (WHO, 2001), people in East Africa are some of the poorest in the world. Almost every Ugandan is affected by the situation of family instability and/or poverty and struggles for a decent living. This also affects Ugandan men as many of them have problems in finding adequate jobs and maintaining their traditional position as the breadwinners of the family,” the study reads.
The study goes on to note thus: “…young men perceive multiple and sometimes conflicting ideas about what it means to be a man and generally perceive that they are constantly judged and evaluated for their actions as men. These pressures, arising from a clash of ideologies, westernisation trends, socioeconomic change and the challenges to traditional masculinity, may lead to feelings of humiliation, both in a man’s sense of self, as well as in his sense of how he is perceived by others (Dolan, 2002) and might impact on Ugandan men’s suicidal behaviour and attitudes towards suicide.”
Participants in a study who were all male, were asked if they had ever thought about suicide. 34 per cent expressed having had suicidal ideation, 22.5 per cent had made a suicide plan during the last year, 38 per cent had thought about suicide and 28 per cent had made a suicide plan earlier in life.
According to the study, 316 men responded to the question: “What do you think is the most important cause of suicide?” The causes were ultimately categorised