28 January 2014

Nigeria: The Rise of Suicide Cases

Last week Monday, Anthony Oyeniyi, a 17-year-old, final year student of Oro Grammar School, in Irepodun Local Government Area of Kwara State, reportedly killed himself within the school premises. The classmates of the deceased, who happened to be the head boy of the school, were said to have become worried when they noticed that Oyeniyi was not in class with them. A search party later found his body dangling from a tree. This came barely six weeks after a 12-year- old girl, Chisom Okechukwu, also committed suicide by hanging at Nnoche-Uduke Community in Ikwo Local Government Area of Ebonyi. A primary five pupil, Okechuwu was said to have left home and was not seen until the following morning, hanging on a tree at the back of her compound.

Suicide is a growing trend in our country but hardly anybody seems to be paying attention, perhaps because of the stigma the society attaches to the challenge, largely associated with mental health. According to a psychiatrist, Mr. Adeoye Oyewole, "suicide is common but it is often considered a taboo for anyone to broadcast information about it. The implication of this is that it is under-reported and even the police do not get to hear about it because of the stigma attached to it."

A consultant psychiatrist, Dr Abiodun Adewuya, who recently expressed concern over the high rate of suicide in Nigeria, blamed the problem on the inability of government to address social issues. Adewuya who said that available hospital records had shown that cases of suicide were becoming rampant, has attributed the problem to various reasons such as mental illnesses, chronic illnesses, social and environmental factors, adding that lack of self esteem also made many people to commit suicide.

According to Adewuya, "there are some illnesses that are likely to make you want to commit suicide, like depression. Severe depressed cases are people who have very low mood, they have pessimistic thinking. Most of them believe that they cannot succeed in life, that they are better off dead. There could be other chronic debilitating illnesses that are highly stigmatised. The second one is the social cause. One, in which you believe the environment is dysfunctional, you cannot function inside it."

While the statistics of suicide is chilling, the reasons for them are also varied, especially given that some of the victims actually do leave notes to explain their actions. For instance, in Jalingo, Taraba State, a 30-year-old woman, Mrs. Bilkisi Gidado, committed suicide after her husband reportedly took a second wife. Also in Ajuwon, Ogun State, Tobilola Ajihun killed herself after her long-time boyfriend rejected her pregnancy. Her suicide note was very explicit: "Please, I killed myself by taking rat poison because he rejected my pregnancy. I was sincere to him and I never double-dated. So, I decided to take my life."

From the loss of a football match by a club being supported by the victim to being diagnosed of certain ailments with social stigma, suicide is now becoming a common feature of our society. According to a psychologist, Mr. Christopher Akpofure, very few sensitive people have not felt suicidal at a moment or two in their lives. "For all of us, there are times when it just seems too much, or we get too tired and fed up, or someone betrays and hurts us to a point of no return. It is at that exact moment that we must call upon our higher selves in order to get through," said Akpofure who underlined the fact that some people actually do need help. And that is why the authorities must take more seriously mental health issues in our country.

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