As Nigeria joins other countries to mark this year’s World Suicide Prevention Day, investigations have shown that there has been an upsurge in suicide especially among young people in the last 12 months.
Newspaper reports reviewed by Daily Trust showed that no fewer than 51 persons comprising males and females took their own lives within the period.
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The suicide cases were recorded in 22 states – Anambra, Bayelsa, Benue, Cross River, Delta, Edo, Ekiti, FCT, Imo, Jigawa, Kaduna, Kano, Katsina, Kwara, Lagos, Nasarawa, Ondo, Osun, Oyo, Plateau, Rivers and Zamfara.
It showed an increase of 17 when compared with the 34 suicide cases recorded in Nigeria in 2020.
The figure does not include the multitude of cases of suicide that have not been reported in the media because of many factors, among them the reluctance of family members to divulge information.
Eighty-five people reportedly killed themselves in Nigeria in 2019, up from 79 in 2018 and 66 in 2017.
The theme of this year’s World Suicide Prevention Day is ‘Creating hope through action’.
Suicide is a criminal offence in Nigeria. Under Section 327 of the Criminal Code Act, attempting to kill self carries a penalty of up to one year in prison.
“Any person who attempts to kill himself is guilty of a misdemeanour and is liable to imprisonment for one year,” the section said.
A Consultant Psychiatrist, Mohammed Mahmood Yusuf, said suicide is an act of taking one’s life, deliberately initiated and carried out by the person concerned with the intention of a fatal outcome.
Muhammed said that vulnerable groups to suicide include: males, older adults, the poor (people experiencing economic hardship), people experiencing relationship breakdown (such as divorce), past attempters, people with mental illnesses, persons with drugs abuse, persons with chronic medical conditions like chronic pains, epilepsy, jobless people, people with no job satisfaction, people with disabilities or disfigurement.
He said that preventive measures need to be multi-sectoral and systematic involving education, the justice system, legislation, agriculture, the media and social welfare.
Signs of trouble
Medical experts said some of the signs that someone might be thinking or planning to commit suicide include a change in behaviour or the presence of entirely new behaviours; when a person is always talking or thinking about death or killing self; when a person loses interest in things he or she used to care about before, and making comments about being worthless, helpless or hopeless.
According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), suicide remains one of the leading causes of death worldwide. It occurs throughout the lifespan and was the fourth leading cause of death among 15-29 year-olds globally in 2019 after road injury, tuberculosis and interpersonal violence.
A suicide prevention expert, Smart Chongo, said the suicide rate in Nigeria is on the increase as evidenced by the calls and messages about suicide cases received by his organisation.
Chongo, who is also the founder of Smart Suicide Prevention Initiative, said, “Most of the calls we receive lately are from people who are depressed due to economic harshness. People are getting depressed and they are losing their loved ones due to the pandemic and that has raised the bar of suicide and depression in Nigeria.”
Chongo linked suicide attempts and their increasing rate in Nigeria to the loss of loved ones and unmet expectations.
He also attributed it to the economic situation as well the increase in the crime rate. Many, he said, have been victims of one crime or the other thereby increasing their depression and suicidal attempts.
A Consultant Psychiatrist at the Federal Neuropsychiatric Hospital, Maiduguri, Dr Ibrahim Mshelia, said depression is alarming in the North East zone of the country due to insurgency saying this had led to high suicide cases in the zone.
He said, “Insurgency has contributed to this menace of suicide. We are having alarming cases in the North East region.”
He said suicide cases were under-reported in the northern part of the country due to low awareness compared to the South where there is adequate awareness.
Some experts attributed the menace to “Irresponsible media reporting on suicide, increasing family disharmony, social and economic exclusion among others.”
Dr Taiwo Lateef Sheikh, a consultant psychiatrist at Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria, linked the increasing suicide rate in the country to a lack of effective national suicide prevention strategies and non-passage of the mental health bill.
Sheikh, who is also the President of the Association of Psychiatrists of Nigeria (APN), explained that a comprehensive suicide prevention policy is a whole document that includes measures such as addressing social, psychological, mental health and infrastructural determinants which involved improvement in mental healthcare services.
How to address the menace
A psychologist, Dr Yemi Atibioke, said preventing suicide was a collective responsibility and that everyone needed to work together by playing their roles. He said governments, employers, landlords, parents and other family members have roles in not driving people to commit suicide.
He said individuals should be sensitive to what could trigger mental health complications in their lives.
He said, “A woman that is already frustrated at home and gets to the office only to be under constant condemnation and frustrated by her employers could resort to suicide.
“When children are experiencing condemnation from their parents, such as comparing them with some of their friends, they resort to suicide when they can no longer cope. So it is good for parents to play their role.
He said when the government played its roles, the survival of the people would not be defeated and they would then be able to cope with stress whether physiological, physical or economic.
Chongo on his part urged Nigerians to assist in preventing suicide by increasing empathy, keeping in touch with families and neighbours as well as checking up on people both near and far.
Dr Sheikh called for restricted access to chemical agents used to commit suicide and firearms; changing the ways the media report suicide and making it not only patients’ friendly but using reporting of suicide to educate the public, among others.
In May 2021, a 200-level student of the Department of Political Science at the Adekunle Ajasin University, Akungba Akoko, Ondo State, Feranmi Fasunle reportedly took her life by drinking sniper in her room.
Although the reason behind her action was not ascertained, insinuations were rife that she did so because she had a relationship issue, but her friends refuted the claim saying she had no boyfriend.
The deceased was rushed to the school’s health centre but was later referred to the Federal Medical Centre, Owo where she gave up the ghost.
Also a man in Osogbo, Osun State capital jumped into an over-filled Osun River on September 2, 2021.
The incident, which happened at about 4:00pm on the Gbodofon Bridge, on Gbongan/Osogbo road, drew the attention of motorists and passers-by who gathered around the scene to see what was happening.
The deceased, whose identity remains unknown till today, rode his motorcycle to the middle of the bridge.
According to eyewitnesses, he received a phone call but he then tossed his phone into the water before taking the fatal jump.
On August 5, 2021, the police authority in Jigawa State disclosed that a 25-year-old man, Nura Muhammad, committed suicide by hanging in the Dutse Local Government Area of the state.
ASP Lawan Shiisu, the Police Public Relations Officer (PPRO), Jigawa Police Command, who confirmed the incident said the deceased, a resident of Chamo Village committed the offence at about 12.30 pm by hanging himself in his room.
According to him, the deceased had earlier told his wife in the early hours of the day about his possible death, adding that the wife claimed that the deceased was mentally ill at the time he returned from Lagos in July.
Similarly, in February 2021, Tayo Olatunji, a 26-year-old, resident of Ido-Ijesa, Ilesa East Local Government Area of Osun State committed suicide in a bush near his house.
The deceased, whose wife was pregnant, had two children at the time of the tragedy.
The reason Tayo took his life, according to a co-tenant and a close ally of the family, was because he took a loan from a microfinance bank and could not repay it for some time.
In July, a 20-year-old woman, Dausiya Isyaku, was arrested for allegedly attempting to commit suicide in Dutse, Jigawa State capital.
According to the police, Dausiya, a resident of Roni in Roni Local Government Area (LGA) of the state attempted to kill herself because her husband had divorced her.
By Ojoma Akor, Nana Yahaya, Idowu Isamotu, Haruna Ibrahim (Abuja), Risikat Ramoni (Lagos) & Olatunji Omirin (Maiduguri)