THE yearly commemoration of World Suicide Prevention Day (WSPD), every September 10, may have come and gone with awareness-raising activities around the globe. But suicide still remains a global challenge that is listed among the causes of death among Nigerians.
World Health Organization (WHO) statistics estimate that globally, close to 800 000 people die from suicide every year – that’s one person every 40 seconds with 5.4 percent of Africans having depression, and this figure contributes to 9 percent of global cases of depression.
The statistics also indicates that in Nigeria, depression affected about 7 million people in 2015 (3.9 percent), while in 2016, suicide was the second leading cause of death among people, who are mostly youths between the ages of 15 and 29.
Suicide is a universal challenge. Every year, lives are lost to suicide related deaths. Psychologists and mental health experts say suicide is among the top 20 leading causes of death globally for people of all ages, with one suicide every 40 seconds, and this makes it a worrisome statistic.
According to International Association for Suicide Prevention ((IASP), “Every life lost represents someone’s partner, child, parent, friend or colleague. For each suicide approximately 135 people suffer intense grief or are otherwise affected. This amounts to 108 million people per year who are profoundly impacted by suicidal behavior”.
“Suicidal behavior includes suicide, and also encompasses suicidal ideation and suicide attempts. For every suicide, 25 people make a suicide attempt and many more have serious thoughts of suicide”, IASP says.
According to Prof. Andrew Ezadueyan Zamani, a Professor of Psychology, Nassarawa State University, Keffi,suicide is the intentional act that terminates one’s life.
Zamani, who is also the immediate past President of the Nigerian Psychological Association (NPA), says “When one announces the intention or documents and eventually executes it, one is said to have committed suicide”.
Suicide sometimes takes a deliberate plan and attempt to execute, says Zamani, explaining that “in between are periods in which one harbors death wish and supports it with suicidal ideations (how to commit suicide). Eventually one practices the act by suicidal attempts by consuming weak solutions, weak self-strangulation stunts and so on. Eventually some eventually develop the courage to commit the act itself through a detailed but concealed plan”.
Signs of Suicide
Out of the many suicide deaths reported in Nigeria in recent times, those who killed themselves did certain things to kill themselves. Some of the victims used Snipper, a brand of insecticide, drug overdose, ropes to hang themselves or jumped into the river to drown themselves. Some of them were said to act withdrawn, dissatisfied with life, disappointed or overwhelmed by challenges.
What are suicidal signs and how can you realize you could be suicidal? When does it become so bad that one begins to think of suicide as an option?Could you be looking the other way unconsciously without realizing that the person you love and cherish is about to end his or her life? Could you be suicidal unconsciously without knowing you may be a victim if you don’t see a psychologist?
Never ignore warning signs, Prof. Zamani says explaining that it is possible to identify people who are suicidal based on these signs and behavioral patterns:
“They are depressed and typically unhappy, withdrawn and disinterested in things that go on around them, have low self- esteem and sustain it by guilt feelings and self- condemnation; they also indulge in binge substance use often resulting in stupors”.
“Suicidal people also engage in fatalistic (life threatening) behaviors like reckless driving, and not observing safety precautions, self-isolation and avoidance behaviors”, says the Professor of Psychology.
Sadly, “Once suicide happens, it is the end of life”, and this situation causes grief and pain to loved ones.
Prevention, the only option
Suicide is preventable. Psychologists and mental health advocates say the only option for curbing suicide deaths is prevention. Therefore, everyone has a stake as a campaigner against suicide.
Prof. Zamani advises that we can all prevent suicide by not repressing our hurt feelings, disappointments and frustrations.
“We are to be mindful of things that make us unhappy, mention them and seek to resolve them with those who are directly responsible for our state of mind and to achieve this; it requires constructive engagement -which means mentioning the issue and seeking explanation for it rather than stirring resentment through the blame game. This gives people a chance to appraise their mutual responsibilities on the problem and obligations for amicable resolution.It also helps to open up to help and not to be self-conceited”.
“We should learn to forgive easily and not harbour grievances for long. This way, we can retain pleasant emotions always. Those who have challenges should acknowledge them and seek help for what they are going through. This requires a good disposition for working with people and mobilising support from them”
“Apart from striving to enrich our activities of daily living to get pleasure, enjoy fun and satisfaction or relevance and impact, Zamani calls on people to have a positive spiritual disposition and a healthy practice of religion. This he says enables us to live in moderation, accept our limitations and those of others.
“Willingness to seek professional psychological counseling help and support to treat confidential issues and enhance self-growth and development is necessary and also interpersonal sensitivity to reach out with a helping hand to those who hurt and lack capacity for self-redemption. We need to also remember that whatever the challenge is, life is good, there is no alternative to it”, he adds.
Experts point to the extinction of the traditional family structure, the desperation to make it at all cost, lack of job security, shortage of psychiatrists and none passage of Mental Health Bill among others as factors that need urgent attention to stem the rising tide of suicide
A recent WHO report indicates that, globally, youths, ages 15-29 are more prone to suicide.
While calling of the Nigerian youths to be strong amidst the numerous challenges they face, the Chairman, Nigeria Union of Journalists, Plateau State Chapter, Mr. Paul Jatau urged the Government at all levels to prioritize issues affecting the youth population, to reduce the high rate of suicide affecting them.
The NUJ Chairman said “Suicide is generally caused by dissatisfaction especially where you cannot find anything to do, where you cannot find jobs, or the capacity to do something. Therefore where you do not fit into the present contradictions that is called our society and where your shock absorbers cannot absorbed the present realities, a person takes his life as the easy way out”.
“Unfortunately, many Nigerian youths are among suicide statistics in Nigeria. Not all of us have the same capacity to bear our shocks. Some people’s shock absorbers are more than others, to absorbed shock. Some people can bear stress and maneuver their ways out of any general situation. Others are easily overwhelmed by the same challenges and they give up easily”.
“On the whole, government at all levels need to do more especially for the Nigerian youths because they are the ones that are more predisposed to suicide, by doing more to provide jobs and the essentials of good governance so that the society will move on. If you have the essentials of good governance, then the youths will find jobs for themselves.Provide a lot of options for the youths and they will not commit suicide”.
The Nigerian government is said to be doing little to address the mental health needs of Nigerians. Despite having the largest number of mental cases in Africa, Nigeria has one of the lowest numbers of psychiatrists in the world. Nigeria’s online newspaper, “The Punch Sunday”, reported in May 19, 2019 that 250 psychiatrists battle Nigeria’s 60 million mental cases.
This was revealed by The President of the Association of Psychiatrists of Nigeria, Dr. Taiwo Sheikh, who said in the Newspaper story that Nigeria had only about 250 psychiatrists providing mental health care, and three out of every five Nigerian psychiatrists left the country after their education for greener pastures.
Global statistics also shows that Nigeria is also not listed among countries that have good quality vital registration data on suicide, but experts’ advice that the country should have in place a national suicide prevention strategy. There is also a dearth of Psychiatrists to manage mental health challenges in the county.
Depression screening is important to saving lives. WHO advises that National suicide prevention strategies are essential for elevating suicide prevention on the political agenda. Such strategy and associated action plan are necessary to push forward the implementation of suicide prevention. Without these, efforts are likely to abate and suicide prevention will remain neglected
Suicides and suicide attempts have a ripple effect that impacts on families, friends, colleagues, communities and societies therefore deliberate efforts and being mindful of your loved ones could prevent a suicidal attempt.
The tragedy leaves families bereaved, but engaging with each other and joining actions to spread awareness of suicide prevention is crucial to making someone intending to commit suicide to have a re-think.