Laura Chite has decided to speak out on mental illness, using her story to enlighten people on a topic that is gaining ground in Kenya but is yet to be understood by many.
In an Engage Talk, Ms Chite explains how one day coming from work, she found her husband of two years dead in their garage, he had hanged himself.
“I tried to access the garage, I found the door a little ajar, my husband used to do a lot of stuff there, so it was not abnormal that I found the door slightly open, I pushed the door further and my body goes numb, I see a silhouette, hanging there, I look again, I am confused and I walk away,” explains Ms Chite.
She walked to her sister’s house next door and knocked the door furiously before the sister let her in.
“She asked me what was wrong, I tell her I think Steve has taken his life, she asks me, what! and I am like, I think he is hanging in the garage and I start crying hysterically.”
In the talk, Ms Chite explains that when she lost her husband Steve, she had so many questions. She also narrates how organised her husband was and he had been planning the suicide for a while. He left a note detailing what he would want to be done after his passing, how he should be buried after only three days and another note to Ms Chite that read: “Tell Laura I love her very much, and I don’t want her to suffer because of my illness.”
“My husband had been suffering from bipolar three years to his death, and he had been deteriorating at a very fast rate and I did not realise it, and because of the shame of the society, we never talked about it, we kept it a secret and nobody knew what was going on, so we isolated ourselves from all those around us, my personality changed, I was no longer adventurous, no longer social or explorative and I realised this after my husband went,” she narrates.
“When he was sick, I always asked him what I can do to help, and he said, ‘my love, there is nothing you can do, I have to help myself and I do not know how,’ nobody could do anything to help him and the best thing I could do was take care of him and watch him as he struggled with his life.”
Conversations on mental health
Ms Chite now wants the conversation on suicide to be made, a topic that has been bedeviled by silence and a lot of judgement when someone takes away their life.
“What bothers me is when I see the stories of suicide in the news, it takes me back eight years ago and I ask myself what can we do to fix this situation, we cannot be having the same thing happening eight years later, so I decided to do my part and I told my story through Jackson Biko, I did this because the more we keep quiet when these things happen, the more we are fanning the fuel, we must share, so that those signs that are seen, that you notice them and you are able to do something about them,” she explains.
After sharing her story with Mr Biko, Ms Chite got many messages from people, some of who wanted to take their lifes away, she says she tried her best to talk them out of it, others who talked to her were caregivers of people people struggling with personality disorders.
This is a mental health condition that causes extreme mood swings from emotional highs to emotional lows.
So its main symptom is alternating episodes of euphoria to major depression.
The fluctuations can be severe with moods being normal in between.
Some people experience hallucinations.
Bipolar is a lifelong condition and but can be managed by medication and counseling.