12 September 2017

Nigeria: Trado-Religious Therapy, Key to Suicide Prevention in Nigeria

Worried by the growing incidence of suicide among Nigerians, psychiatrists and physicians in general recently called for high index of suspicion for signs and symptoms of depression among patients.

The development is based on findings that about 3.0 per cent of Nigerians will have thoughts about ending their lives, during their lifetime while some will plan and actually attempt to kill themselves.

With an average of 15.1 suicides per 100,000 population per year, Nigeria is ranked 30th most suicide-prone nation in the world.

Nigeria also rates 10th in Africa after countries such as Togo (ranked 26th in the world), Burkina Faso (22nd), Cameroun (19th) Zimbabwe (16th), Central African Republic (13th), Sierra Leone (11th), Angola (9th), Equatorial Guinea (7th), and Cote D'Ívoire (5th).

All these facts and more have come to the fore as Nigeria joined the rest of the world to mark this year's World Suicude Prevention Day - marked every year on the 10th of September as reminder that suicide is a global issue and is preventable.

Suicide reports underestimated

It is known that close to one million people die by suicide annually, globally; and for every death by suicide, 20-25 more have attempted, according to the World Health Organisation (WHO).

But the Lagos University Teaching Hospital, LUTH, says this figure is an under-estimation because of under-reporting which occurs due to factors ranging from those who "hide" suicide deaths as a result of the stigma associated with it; countries that have no suicide prevention plan and no reliable statistics on causes of death, and countries where suicide attempt is criminalized thus discouraging reporting.

"All three of these are factors in Nigeria. The WHO aims to reduce suicide deaths by 10 per cent by 2020, but needs the collaboration of all countries, and is encouraging the decriminalization of suicide and the establishment of national initiatives on prevention."

In March 2017, the LUTH established a Suicide Research and Prevention Initiative (SURPIN) that has since been involved in active suicide prevention.

To commemorate the World Suicide Prevention Day 2017, SURPIN is hosting a one-day medico-religious workshop for the clergy, clerics, leaders and others, to equip them on how to identify depression and the risks of suicide, towards establishing a collaborative care approach that incorporates both the spiritual and the physical. The theme this year is: "Take a minute, change a life".

Good Health Weekly gathered that the reason for this is that the path-to-care for many people in Nigeria involves trado-religious therapy before orthodox treatment.

According medical experts, many of the stressors associated with depression are issues for which people seek counseling and support from their pastor, priest, Imam, etc.

"Therefore religious leaders are key to whether people who need medical treatment seek them or not. Some may only need the encouragement from the spiritual leaders, while others will need the input of orthodox medical treatment as well.

"The two are not in opposition if the basis of therapy is well understood. Therefore a therapeutic collaboration between the religious leaders and the healthcare practitioners will be hugely beneficial to the populace.

To achieve this there has to be a harmonization of the process, and in the specific case of depression and suicide there is a need for the religious leader to be able to spot clinical depression as against someone going through everyday challenges.

SURPIN aims to achieve this through this upcoming medico-religious workshop. It is going to be a fully-loaded workshop and another blazing-trail activity by the hospital. Depression and suicide are real, and we need to tackle it as they are respectively treatable and preventable.

Recently, medical practitioners raised the alarm that suicide rate was escalating in Nigeria and called for well structured Primary Healthcare Centres, PHCs, that would help detect and treat depression early before the onset of suicide attempts.

According to the World Health Organisation, WHO, suicide is the second leading cause of death among 1adolescents. However, suicides are preventable.

It is estimated that close to 800 000 people die due to suicide every year, and for every suicide there are many more attempts every year.

Experts say a prior suicide attempt is the single most important risk factor for suicide in the general population.

Suicide is the second leading cause of death among 15-29-year-olds and 78 per cent of global suicides occur in low- and middle-income countries.

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