A couple of days ago, a young man of about 21 years, identified simply as Segun, attempted suicide because he scored 167 in the Unified Tertiary Matriculation Examination (UTME) conducted by the Joint Admissions and Matriculation Board (JAMB).
Two days later, a 400 Level student of the University of Nigeria, Nsukka (UNN), Chukwuemeka Akachi, ended his life. Before taking his life, he admitted depression was eating him up. While growing up, his sister, he claimed in what could be described as suicide notes gleaned from his Facebook wall, urinated in his bathwater. But despite rushing to his mum to complain, the mother still forced him to bathe with the water. That memory haunted him till the very end.
As if suicide has become a race among Nigerian youths, a few days later a gospel minister, Michael Arowosaiye, based in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Abuja, reportedly hanged himself with a belt inside his room.
Arowosaiye allegedly took his life because his wedding was cancelled over infidelity. He was said to be involved in sexual relationship with another girl who reportedly leaked his nude pictures. The gospel minister could not handle the resultant shame, so he took what he considered the easiest way out: suicide.
The gale of suicide sweeping across Nigeria almost swept away a 29-year-old accountant, Daniel Okereke. Mother luck, however, smiled on Okereke as he was rescued by officials of the Rapid Response Squad (RRS), Lagos State Police Command just as he was about to jump off the Third Mainland Bridge into the lagoon.
The reason the accountant tried to end his life was still not known. The policemen were said to have spent time speaking with him and encouraging him before taking him to Adekunle Police Station, Yaba.
Also, a 300 level student of the Niger Delta University (NDU), Bayelsa State, Uzakah Ebiweni, reportedly committed suicide. Ebiweni allegedly jumped into a river near the university’s campus at Amassoma in Southern Ijaw Local Government Area.
The deceased was among about 50 students of the institution who failed the Bachelor of Medicine, Bachelor of Surgery (MBBS) examination.
Also on May 28, 2019, Mr. John Achagwa, the Chief Steward to Governor Kashim Shettima of Borno State, committed suicide at the Presidential Lodge, Government House, Maiduguri.
Achagwa killed himself by hanging on a tree. He was said to have greeted his colleagues at the lodge before he went to climb a tree behind the lodge where he hanged himself.
Reacting to the incident, the outgone governor’s Special Adviser on Communications and Strategy, Isa Gusau, said that Shettima supported Achagwa to build a seven-bedroom apartment and also gave him a car.
Gusau said Shettima was shocked and had been wondering what kind of depression could push Achagwa, who was generally known to live comfortably, to resort to taking his own life.
In the last couple of weeks, several Nigerians have attempted suicide. While some succeeded in taking their lives, others were either saved by Good Samaritans or failed in their attempt. Yet, some others only made subtle reference to their intention to end it all based on some financial and or psychological challenges they are facing.
One intriguing but disturbing aspect of suicide now is the impact of social media on the Nigerian youth. In his failed bid to take his life, Segun, who believed his 167 score in the UTME was too low to help his effort to seek admission, hosted a live show on the social media where he invited his friends to watch how he was going to die. He reportedly mixed Sniper in his tea and drank.
A youth, who was one of the commentators on the Facebook wall of Akachi, wrote: “I have found my half-brother. I will soon meet you wherever you may be,” in apparent but subtle reference to intention to commit suicide.
Parents need to pay more attention to every bit of their children’s complaints in order to prevent a similar experience of what happened to Akachi.
Adults also need to reach out to people who are going through challenges – in the neighbourhood, community, church, mosque, office, groups – a phone call, gesture of love, etc., may save a life.
Government, at all levels, must also give attention to mental health of the citizens, among other issues as well as create safety valves because of the pervading economic hardship in the land.
In the past, depression seemed to be a white disease. But the recent reality has put a lie to that assumption. Depression is real. It is a clear and present danger. Those suffering from depression must be encouraged to seek adequate medical attention.
It is time the National Orientation Agency (NOA), if it actually exists, started a campaign to take the attention and focus of the Nigerian youth away from drug use and other vices which may lead them to contemplate suicide.
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