The rising cases of suicide – Thisday

There is need to set up trauma centres for counselling purposes

With an average of one every 40 seconds according to the World Health Organisation (WHO), suicide is topping the chart as the number one killer. Even if that is a global index painting a general picture, a recent survey shows that many Nigerians have committed suicide in the last few years than in previous times, although 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 of our citizens are taking their own lives.

Last week, a popular Lagos-based disc jockey killed himself after leaving a note on his Instagram before carrying out the act. Few days before that, a 300 level student of Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria, Kaduna State, committed suicide in her hostel after also leaving behind a suicide note which seemed to suggest she led a troubled life. Again, a senior lecturer with the Biological Sciences Department of the Federal University of Agriculture, Makurdi, committed suicide, after it seemed like he had issues with his marriage. Within the same period, a soldier in the Nigerian Army, a staff sergeant attached to 192 Battalion in Gwoza, committed suicide in Borno State.

There is a huge body of theories as to why our citizens are taking their own lives: psychological, spiritual and societal. While pundits are discussing these various causes, what looks like a common denominator is depression, a prevalent ailment that we seem to pay scant attention to in Nigeria. Besides, Nigeria is among the countries with no 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.

Many of those who have been interviewed in recent times 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. And there are studies to show 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.

Indeed, 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 their 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. 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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