Suicide In Nigeria – Causes And Prevention
Nigeria has had an alarming increase in the number of recorded suicide deaths over the past couple of years and this has left its citizens baffled and wondering how a country which comprises of peoples who get International recognition as being one of the happiest on earth could begin falling prey to the malice of suicide. I mean, this year alone there was the popular case of the Medical Doctor who jumped into the Lagoon from Third Mainland Bridge, another involving a 500 Level Urban and Regional Planning Undergraduate at Ladoke Akintola University of Technology, Oshogbo, Osun State, and a Student of Babcock University, Ilisan-Remo, Ogun State, amongst others.
Understandably, times are difficult and as a result, people’s resolves and coping mechanisms are being tested and stretched way beyond their limits. This has possibly led to an increase in mental health illnesses and one can tell by observing the average Nigerian who exhibits the faintest traits of frustration and hopelessness especially those who can’t seem to get anything right or find their feet in the harsh reality they live in.
So, what then are the causes of Suicide in Nigeria? Are there indeed ‘causes’ or are what we define as causes instead common risk factors usually associated with suicide? And most importantly, how can the increasing rates of Suicide in Nigeria be prevented?
The first plausible cause of suicide in Nigeria is that of Major mental illnesses, in particular, mood disorders such as depression, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, multiple personality disorder and borderline personality disorder. The intriguing part of this cause is that mainstream Nigerian society doesn’t pay much attention to it because for some reason, the general status quo in society is that these mental illnesses don’t exist and in any case they do, they only affect a minute percentage of the population. Frankly, this is completely false as a reasonable percentage of any human society on Earth have mental illness patients. These mental patients quite literally fight Civil Wars with their minds and they rely strongly on strong medications, particularly antidepressants and sleeping pills, and counselling to survive. A simple breakdown in their medications supply can lead to the thoughts of suicide flooding in and it being a welcome thought.
A plausible cause of suicide in Nigeria is also the current Economic hardship facing the country. Nigeria just recently recovered from a damaging inflation period and the country recently recorded an increase in its GDP by slightly over 1% and the reduction of its foreign debt profile. However, standard of living still remains high, as so the unemployment rate and the rapid increase in the country’s population coupled with the inability of it’s leaders to proffer solutions to these problems has left a reasonable percentage of the population feeling hopelessness and uncertainty for what lies ahead in future.
Another strong factor that has aided the suicide rate in Nigeria is substance abuse. Nigeria has always been a country which is lax about war on substance and drug abuse. As a result of this, there’s a general high rate of substance and drug abuse, especially amongst the youths in Universities across the Nations and generally amongst those who can afford them, which honestly is almost everyone. Most people abuse substances to get temporary reprieve from problems they can’t seem to solve. The unfortunate part about this is that when the effects of whatever substance being abused wears off, the problem still remains. And when these problems persist over a long period of time without solutions, suicide seems to be the only other option.
Traumatic experiences are also another major cause of suicide in Nigeria. These traumatic experiences usually come in the form of the loss of a loved one, rape, physical and emotional bullying, etc. Intriguingly, it’s not the traumatic experiences that makes people suicidal, rather, it’s the reaction of society and people to people who have experienced this trauma. The pain of being victimized by a society or by people who are naturally supposed to comfort you is disheartening and hence, suicide is the inevitable escape.
Lastly, loneliness. Loneliness in this sense doesn’t mean the feeling you get when you’re home alone and bored and have nothing to do, rather, it’s the feeling of helplessness one feels when they’re in a helpless stage and need emotional and physical comforting. The thought of being troubled and in need of counselling and having no one to talk to invariably damages one’s mental health and the thought of suicide begins to become a welcome one.
As to prevention, the first and arguably the most important prevention mechanism for suicide in Nigeria should be Counselling. Although not entirely popular amongst mainstream Nigerians, counselling has proved to be the most effective way of combating suicide in the World. People who constantly have suicidal thoughts should seek out counselling either from professionals or anyone willing to talk to them and hear them out. Showing concern lets a person in distress know that someone is listening without judging and talking provides an outlet for the person to dispense intense, and possibly overwhelming feelings. Keep in mind that having no opportunity to talk about how one feels often makes a person feel more isolated.
Secondly, Suicide hotlines should be established and properly maintained. And also general awareness programmes about the dangers of suicide should be conducted by National Governments. This would better educate the general community as to the causes and symptoms of suicidal thoughts and how to proffer solutions.
Third, there should be a clamp down on the sale of substances. The Government should establish Task forces which would help tackle the issue of substance abuse right down to the grassroot street level.
Lastly, there should be public mental health awareness programmes regularly conducted. This would educate the general public on the symptoms of mental illness and how it is important to not only maintain good mental health, but also on how to assist or help people suffering from mental illnesses.
Note that, a smile at times can be all it takes to improve someone’s mood for the day. And also provide a listening ear to anyone who has a problem they can’t seem to be able to solve. And never think twice about helping someone who is in need of emotional and psychological comforting, you just may be the silver ray of hope the person needs to cling onto and continue living.