The nation’s health authorities should do something urgently to stem the rising cases of suicide across the country. In recent weeks, some Nigerians had reportedly committed suicide. A lectur er in the Department of Mathematics, University of Ibadan committed suicide on April 6. He took his life for not completing his PhD programme.
Also, a 100-level student of Kogi State University, Ayingba, died of suicide on April 19. She reportedly took sniper after being jilted by her unidentified boyfriend. On May 20, an undergraduate of University of Nigeria, Nsukka, (UNN) committed suicide. He died after taking two bottles of sniper, an insecticide. Similarly, on April 26, another 100-level student of Chemical Engineering of the University of Port Harcourt took his life after taken two bottles of sniper.
Last year, the World Health Organisation (WHO) revealed that 800,000 people committed suicide annually in 2016. The global health agency also disclosed that the commonest methods of suicide were hanging and firearms and they occurred in all countries and regions, whether rich or poor. Globally, about 300 million people or 4.4 per cent of the world population are affected by depression, a leading cause of suicide.
About 5.4 per cent of Africans are reportedly affected by depression and they contribute to 9 per cent of global cases of depression. Not less than 7 million or 3.9 per cent of Nigerians were affected by depression in 2015. There are about 40 to 60 million Nigerians suffering from one form of mental illness or the other. Sadly, we have less than 200 psychiatrists in the country to manage them.
Suicide was the second leading cause of death among people between the ages of 15 and 19 in 2016 worldwide. Globally, it is estimated by the WHO that suicide accounts for one million deaths every year. For every death by suicide, 20-25 more have attempted. Suicide crosses all age, racial, and socio-economic groups in the United States and around the world.
In the US, suicide is the second leading cause of death among children and adolescents aged 10-24, and the third leading cause of death among 12-year-olds. Nearly one of every eight children between the ages of 6 and 12 has suicidal thoughts. The suicidal rate is approximately 4 times higher among males than females, but females attempt suicide 3 times as often as males.
Generally, research shows that approximately 90 per cent of people who have died of suicide were suffering from a mental illness at the time. The most common mental illness reported was depression, impulsivity and substance use, including alcohol and drugs.
According to the Global Health Observatory, the global age-standardised suicide rate is put at 11.4 per cent per 100,000 people. The suicide rate in Nigeria is put at 9.5 per 100,000 people. Available statistics show that about 60 countries have registration data on suicide. But only 38 countries have a national suicide prevention strategy. Unfortunately, Nigeria is not among them.
According to medical experts, suicidal thoughts are common and many people experience them when they are undergoing stress or experiencing depression. Causes of suicidal thoughts include depression, anxiety, eating disorders such as anorexia and substance abuse. Studies have shown that people with a family history of mental illness are more likely to have suicidal thoughts.
Symptoms of suicide, according to medical experts, include feeling of being trapped or hopeless, intolerable emotional pain and having an abnormal preoccupation with violence. Others are having mood swings, either happy or sad, talking about revenge, guilt or shame, being agitated, consuming drugs or more alcohol than usual.
We decry the rising cases of suicide cases in the country and urge the Federal and State governments to treat the issue as a national emergency. It is sad that many Nigerians are daily taking their lives. The socio-economic problems in the country might have contributed to the health problem.
Therefore, the government should train more psychiatrists to handle the menace. The available 200 psychiatrists in the country are grossly inadequate to tackle the problem that afflicts over 40 million Nigerians. There is also need for public enlightenment on the condition, its causes, preventive measures and medical facilities where patients can access treatment.