A deluge of suicide notes -Thisday

We should all offer helping hands to stem the scourge, because they need us as we need them

Scary statistics recently rolled out by the World Health Organisation (WHO) revealed that cases of death by suicide are on the rise. With an average of one every 40 seconds, suicide is topping the chart as the number one killer. Even if that is a global index painting a general picture, it is still clear that Africa, indeed, Nigeria features prominently in the phenomenon. A recent survey shows that many Nigerians have committed suicide in the last few years than in previous times. While a few cases get reported, many of the deaths are kept away from the public arena. Taboos and the stigma attached to the issue conspire to hush up incidence of suicides. Yet, it should worry us all that far too many deaths by suicide are going on in our country.

Therefore, it is important that we move fast to halt the growing incidence. First there is an urgent need to interrogate why citizens are taking their lives. And in this bid, there is a huge body of theories: psychological, spiritual and societal. And while pundits are discussing the various causes of suicides, what looks like a common denominator is depression, a prevalent ailment that we seem to pay scant attention to in Nigeria. Besides, only 28 countries reportedly have a national suicide prevention strategy and it is something we must key into by reducing access to the means of suicide. The strategy, according to WHO, includes“responsible reporting of suicides by the media” to avoid the risk of inspiring copycat attempts as well as care for people suffering from mental and substance use disorders, chronic pain and emotional distress.

As stated above, a very simple thesis is that suicides are on the increase due to depression. It is difficult to pick holes with this because those interviewed said they attempted taking their lives after bouts with depression. And these, more than ever before, are depressing times when, as the Holy Writ aptly puts it “men’s hearts are failing them”. With insecurity at its worst levels and hard times biting even harder, it is not too difficult to understand why many are taking the suicidal route, especially in our country.

To underscore the gravity of the challenge, a team of medical experts recently noted that hypertension would account for 40 per cent death in 2015. The malaise has already claimed close to 300 deaths so far this year. The study shows that majority of Nigerians are more worried about their economic conditions than at any period in history. And confronted with this type of trepidation, some people believe they are better off dead.

The harsh economic condition has led to all sort of mental health challenges among the populace that could result in suicidal instincts. Yet Nigerians must be encouraged to become more open as they grapple with all sorts of frustrations. Many suicide notes are filled with confessions that the victims had no one to talk to. Loneliness and the absence of support are the bedrock of suicide incidents. We recommend that trauma centres manned by seasoned psychologists and psychiatrists be set up for counselling purposes.

This is where the role of community and faith-based organisations becomes handy. Where government fails to set up trauma centres, faith-based bodies should be active in providing care and counselling to single parents, out-of-job youths, drug addicts and rape victims, as this set forms the bulk of those with suicidal tendencies. Above all, nothing can replace individual admonition to self that life holds a meaning after all the troubles of existence. In times like these, citizens must fall back on internal philosophy that emphasises hope above despair and purpose above emptiness. For in the long run, the will to live or die is sometimes a personal decision.



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