Curbing the Menace of Suicide in Nigeria

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By Okechukwu Keshi Ukegbu

Suicide is defined as the act of intentionally causing one’s own death. Studies have traced causes of suicide to mental disorders, including depression, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, personality disorders, and substance abuse—including alcoholism and the use of benzodiazepine, among others.

Unfortunately, analysts have begun to wonder recently if the evil spirit influencing suicide has finally decided to domicile in Nigeria. No minute passes without the news of suicide or attempted suicide. Every now and then, the stories that adorn the media landscape are “a student of the Lagos State Polytechnic, KingEzekiel Joseph Mayowa, drank sniper because his girlfriend of 9 years left him. Mayowa, who was a part-time student of the Lagos State Polytechnic, Ikorodu Campus, department of hospitality management technology, died after using the now popular sniper, an insecticide, to end his life”. A Nigerian father of two identified as Seun Adedutan has taken his own life. The father of two who was described as a good Christian took two bottles of sniper to end his own life”.

The incidents cited above are tip of the iceberg. The list of suicide cases keep expanding. Nigerians were greeted on the morning of the 6th of April, 2019, with the news of the suicide case of a lecturer at the Department of Mathematics, in the University of Ibadan. It was reported that the deceased ended his life after unfulfilled dreams of completing his PhD programme. The following week on 19th April 2019, a 100-level student of Kogi State University, Ayingba, also died by suicide after she was reportedly jilted by her boyfriend. She was said to have taken Sniper, a pesticide. Efforts to save her life were abortive. Several days later on 29th April, news broke that another undergraduate, a 100-level student of Chemical Engineering at the University of Port Harcourt, Rivers State, ended his life after drinking two bottles of Sniper.

Shortly thereafter, an 18-year-old was found dead in her room in Aluu, one of the host communities of UNIPORT with bottles of insecticide and Sniper by her side. On the 4th May 2019, a 26-year-old hairdresser in Lagos ended her life after her boyfriend of two years ditched her. On May 13th, 2019 another student of the University of Nigeria, Nsukka, escaped death by the whiskers as attempts on suicide failed.

Another baffling case of suicide occurred on May 14th, 2019, involving one member of a Pentecostal Church in Lagos, who reportedly got depressed over his accommodation issues before taking his own life. On the 15th May 2019, a 17-year-old in Jos, was reported to have drank Sniper to end his life when he learned that he had failed the 2019 JAMB exam. A day after on May 16th, it was also reported that a third year Physics/Astronomy undergraduate of the University of Nigeria, Nsukka, was found dead in an uncompleted building in the educational institution. His lifeless body was found dangling on a rope suspended from a height.

As the list keeps expanding, experts have generated fear that the situation may not abate in the nearest future as there is the likelihood that more Nigerians are likely to succumb to suicide if urgent attention is not taken to address underlying factors that are fuelling the upsurge.

Among all the causes of suicide in Nigeria, depression is fingered as the key. World Health Organization (WHO) statistics showed that depression affected about 7 million people in 2015 (3.9 percent), while in 2016, suicide was the second leading cause of death among people between the ages of 15 and 29.

The same health says that globally, 300 million people – 4.4 percent of the world population – are affected by depression, a leading cause of suicide. The WHO also notes that 5.4 percent of Africans have depression and contributes to 9 percent of global cases of depression. Good Health Weekly findings reveal that people that experience setbacks are more likely be depressed and contemplate suicide than others.

Experts have proffered the following suggestions as measures that can ameliorate the situation: readjusting the traditional family structure, deemphasizing the spirit of make it at all cost; ensuring job security; improving the number of psychiatrists; and passage of Mental Health Bill.

It will be recalled that a similar alarm was raised last year by Dr. Abubakar Bagudu, Consultant Psychiatric with the Abubakar Tafawa Balewa Teaching Hospital (ATBTH), Bauchi. The alarm by Bagaudu said that eight out of every 10 patients brought to the mental clinic of the hospital are youths who abused drugs.

Bagudu further disclosed that drug abuse among young people had left them with depression and high level of suicide.

The consultant’s claim buttressed a recent  World Health Organisation( WHO) report that  half of all mental health cases started from ages 14.The report added that most cases went undetected.

Bagudu also noted that the ugly trend has compelled the Psychiatric department of the Teaching Hospital to create awareness among post primary school students.

It was also reported that Bauchi was among the states with a high rate of codeine abuse, translating into large turnout of patients with mental problems in the state.

Experts have attributed reasons of drug abuse to such factors as influence of peer group pressure to improve self-esteem, drug availability, accessibility, wrongful prescription and lack of drug education and the list is inexhaustible.

Researches have revealed that most youths who took to drugs was as a result of peer group influence. This is in a bid by our youths   to join the league of young men that make things happen within their neighbourhood.

Like it is often postulated that “bad company corrupts good manners,” parents have enormous work in this direction by influencing to a greater extent the companies their wards keep. This approach will go a long way in checking drug addiction among our youths.

Another disheartening factor is the poor manner in which the circulation of drugs is regulated in the country. This trend has facilitated the proliferation of “prescription drugs” in the open market. The trend has degenerated to the level that drugs that require doctor’s prescription before dispensing to be sold in the open market.

In saner climes, certain drugs do not circulate widely except “Over The Counter” drugs. The situation has degenerated to the extent that the circulation and proliferation of drugs such as tramadol has assumed a geometric rate. While the consumption of this substance (tramadol) may have assumed arithmetic progression, its consumption may have assumed a geometric rate. In every street corner now tramadol is sold and consumed without recourse to its consequence.

Tramadol clinically serves as a pain relief but today it is abused and its use has been expanded to other uses such as to enhance productivity for menial labour and sex enhancement. According to experts, an abuse or prolonged use of tramadol exposes the user to psychotic consequences. That is to say that in the nearest future, Dr. Bagudu’s outcry will be a child’s play considering the large number of our youths that will parade our streets insane.

The consequence for prolonged or abuse of tramadol does not begin and end with psychotic effects .Indeed, tramadol abuse is a disaster begging for urgent attention. In few years, an army of youths that are unproductive or less productive will be unleashed on the society.

It is on this strength that public opinion moulders are agitating for the restriction of the insecticide, sniper, out of circulation or on the other hand, raising the price of the product to the high heavens so that it cannot be easily accessed because researches have shown that the insecticide is the major facilitator of suicide.

Drug abuse and economic hardship are Siamese twins that are hardly separated, and if suicide is to be frontally addressed in Nigeria, the issue of ameliorating economic hardship undergone by Nigerians should be sufficiently addressed. It is a common parlance that “a hungry man is an angry man”.

While it is incontrovertible that economic hardship leads to depression and consequently depression, it is enough for us to take our lives because of economic hardship or other related misfortunes. We should bear in mind the advice that “hard times do not last forever but hard men do”.

From the above proposals, it will not be out of place to suggest here that the various agents of socialisation, especially the church and media, the orientation agencies, and the anti- drug agencies have crucial roles to play.

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