There’s another pandemic killing Nigerian youth and we are not paying attention

Suicidal thoughts are a symptom of an underlying problem. Treatment is effective in many cases, but the first step is to ask for help.” – Medical News Today.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), “Every year close to 800,000 people take their own life and there are many more people who attempt suicide. Every suicide is a tragedy that affects families, communities and entire countries and has long-lasting effects on the people left behind. Suicide occurs throughout the lifespan and was the second leading cause of death among 15-29 year-olds globally in 2016.

In Nigeria, the rising rate of suicide among youth is alarming. According to the International Centre for Investigative Reporting (ICIR), Nigeria has the highest suicide rate in Africa and is sixth globally. We see some of these reports on social media and on news sites, but you’ll want to know that more than half are not reported. 

On May 13, 2019, BusinessDay reported one Chukwuemeka Akachi, a final year student of the University of Nigeria, Nsukka, who committed suicide after sharing a poetic suicide note on Facebook: “Forgive me. In case you are the one who finds the body. I am really sorry. It had to be someone, you know. I have chosen Jo Nketaih’s poem as my suicide note: ‘They said you came looking for me. I did not drown; I was the water.’ Where do atheists go to when they die? Lol. Amen.

The deceased was said to have battled dementia for over two months and survived a previous suicide attempt. Two lecturers had been asked by the university to monitor and counsel him but this proved futile as the English and Literary Studies student carried out his threat by taking a poisonous substance,” the report stated. 

In the same year, Samuel Elias, 25, another final year student of the Department of Religion and Culture, University of Nigeria, Nsukka, took his life by drinking the deadly chemical, Sniper. According to his mother, Kate Elias, a staff of the university, the unfortunate incident happened on Monday June 17, around 5.30 pm in her house. It was mentioned that Samuel lamented his inability to graduate from UNN because his final year project had been holding him back.

While suicide is becoming a silent killer in Nigeria, a study carried out by ResearchGate reveals that young males are more prone to committing suicide than their female counterparts.

Earlier this year, Babajide Sanwo-Olu, the Lagos Governor, was reported to have rescued a man who was about to commit suicide at the third Mainland Bridge because of a N500,000 debt. 

The governor made this known while speaking to journalists after he visited the Lagos Island Maternity Hospital, Broad Street and some other hospitals in different parts of the State, to celebrate Eid-el-Kabir with in-patients and health practitioners,” PM News reported. 

The Governor said, “Just this morning, we rescued somebody who was planning to jump at the Third Mainland Bridge all because he said he has a debt of N500,000. We had to rescue him and we paid the debt. Those little details are what make the difference.

Even more recently, it was reported how one Nigerian man attempted suicide over his inability to get the attention of Hanan Buhari, daughter of the President Muhammadu Buhari (retd.), who got married on Friday.

In an interview with The Punch, Ahmed narrated how he had planned to take his life if Hanan went ahead with her wedding.

He had written on Facebook, “On 4th September, if she (Hanan) marries another person, I will commit suicide. Nobody can stop me.” – Abba Ahmed.

While some people can easily empathise with people with suicidal thoughts, others make a mockery of their predicament probably due to a lack of understanding of the issue. You’ll be star-struck if you realise how we trivialise mental health problems in Nigeria; with religion taking the lead and Sharia law joining the charade. 

We will recall how Sharia law criminalises suicide attempts and impedes genuine efforts to stop a growing mental health crisis. 

Considering the increasingly disturbing numbers of suicide cases and attempted suicide cases among Nigerian youth, appropriate authorities need to call for a review of the laws that criminalise attempted suicide and emphasise the need to shun stigmatisation of such people. Also, sensitisation programmes need to be more aggressive. 

Suicide is a serious public health problem; however, suicides are preventable with timely, evidence-based and often low-cost interventions. For national responses to be effective, a comprehensive multisectoral suicide prevention strategy is needed,” WHO.

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