The reported increasing cases of suicide in Nigeria have continued to stir concerns. But observers worry that many cases still go unreported. In this report, LADESOPE LADELOKUN, writes on the need by governments at all levels and stakeholders to step up efforts to tame the ugly trend
At first, she was not one to betray emotions. But that was only momentary. Tears soon gathered in her eyes, cascading down her chubby cheeks as she grudgingly spoke about Tawa, her deceased 17-year-old daughter. Tawa, according neighbours at her Adesan, Mowe, residence in Obafemi Owode Local Government Area of Ogun State, decided to end it all after her mother scolded her for missing tutorial classes for two weeks. Mama Tawa, as she is called by neighbours, however, confirmed to Sunday Telegraph that her friends had told her that her daughter did not attend her Unified Tertiary Matriculation Examination(UTME) tutorial classes for two weeks,wondering where she had gone.
But she maintained she couldn’t have hurled verbal assaults that would make her just end it all. Although she told Sunday Telegraph that she was a woman of little education, she had longed to witness the day her late daughter would bag a university degree. Knowing Tawa was not one of the candidates that sat for the last UTME, she said, filled her with unspeakable sorrow.
“She was supposed to write UTME like her mates. I saw some of her friends on the day she was supposed to write it and it crossed my mind that she could have been one of them.How can I say harsh words that would make her kill herself ?” she asked Sunday Telegraph.
Infuriated, her husband, Baba Tawa,who sensed that she was being interviewed from his shop(directly beside his wife’s),wondered why she should be asked questions about her late daughter, saying it amounted to a deliberate act of emotional torture. “It’s not an experience she wants to remember.
She’s already forgetting it. What do you want to do with this? Where is your ID card? Why are you bringing this up again? She has moved on.Please let her be.” he fumed. Meanwhile, findings by Sunday Telegraph revealed that earlier in 2022, another teenager had died after she downed sniper(an insecticide) because she got scolded by her food vendor parents in the Abule Afa area of the same community.
Like Mama Tawa, who could still not believe her daughter could just end her life abruptly, shock firmly gripped Mrs Tiwa Ogunyemi on sighting the lifeless body of her husband. She had thought he went to use the toilet when he left her side in the middle of the night.
But a neighbour, who saw him in the passage of his rented apartment that had no ceiling sighted his suspended lifeless body, residents told Sunday Telegraph.
According to a reliable source at his Ilase residence in the Agbara area of Ogun State, he had killed himself because of the heavy debt he had incurred and his crumbling business. Although, the aforementioned cases of suicide were unreported before now, Sunday Telegraph observed that they give teeth to the argument in some quarters that many unreported cases escape the attention of the media.
The World Health Organisation(WHO) had in a report revealed that, with over 17,000 lives lost to suicide, Nigeria had the highest suicidal rate among African countries in 2016.
Also, information obtained from the website of World Population Review in a report it titled ‘Suicide Rate By Country in 2019’ revealed that France, Canada, Germany, South Africa, Switzerland, Singapore, China and Nigeria have 17.7,12.5, 13.6,11.6,17.2, 9.9,9.7 and 9.5 suicides per 100,000 respectively. In 2021, a non-governmental organisation, Suicide Research Prevention Initiative, had bemoaned what it called the spiralling suicide rate in Nigeria.
Young adults, averagely aged 30, according to the organisation, dominate in suicide cases. Piqued by the menace, the National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC) had announced the ban on sale of Sniper and other brands of agricultural formulations of Dichlorvos in supermarkets and in the open markets following rampant suicide cases and misuse of the products.
Why we attempted suicide
Though many have terminated their sojourn on earth abruptly, some still flirt with suicidal thoughts.
In a chat with Sunday Telegraph, Sola Adeyemi, a chef, expressed worry about how her sister, Titi, was always considering committing suicide. In a bid to back her claim, she started a WhatsApp chat with Titi and forwarded its content to Sunday Telegraph. See the conversation below: Sola: I wan ask you something self.Wetin dey always make you get bad thought for mind that time when you dey work?Like depression?
Titi: Sometimes if I think about everything about life. Sola: And why do you think suicide is best option.Like waiting and waiting Titi: I feel that’s the only way I can end all Sola: Cause I dey fear.If I rent that house na only you go dey stay there Titi: U don’t have to fear because I’m always trying to control myself over it. Almost everytime, I question God why he hasn’t answered my prayers.
So, I always feel bad about when exactly is my dream going to come true. Sharing her experience with Sunday Telegraph, Bola Adeyanju recalled how she was determined to end her life because she missed the motherly love she enjoyed, owing to irreconcilable dispute between her parents. “I used to have everything I needed from my mother.
But when she left, no one could fill her space. I became a slave. Nothing I did was right. I hated myself and my life. I got a radio battery and bit it. I ate the charcoallike substance because I thought it had the chemical that would kill me. But it didn’t. ”
Suicide attempters need help, not punishment
In an attempt to amend the Criminal Code Act, Cap. C38, Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 2004, a member of the House of Representatives from Delta State, Francis Waive, had sponsored a bill titled ‘A Bill for an Act to Amend the Criminal Code Act Cap C38 LFN 2004, to Provide for a More Rational Punishment for the Offence of Attempted Suicide, and For Related Matters.’
The bill sought to amend section 327 of the Criminal Code Act, 2004 which states that “any person who attempts to kill himself is guilty of a misdemeanour and is liable to imprisonment for one year”.
But the amendment sought to replace the section with: “Any person who attempts to kill himself is guilty of a misdemeanour, and is liable to compulsory counselling and community service for a period, not less than six months” Self-destructive behaviour, Waive said, is often a cry for help, since suicide is mainly an indication of underlying mental and psychological disorder, stating that the law should direct the appropriate authorities to assist the traumatised attempters as penalising them is counterproductive.
“Suicide attempts have been on the increase in Nigeria. This could be due to several reasons but primarily due to the harsh economic conditions of the average Nigerian. Research has also shown a strong link between suicide and mental illness/ disorder. However, it continues to be treated as a crime in Nigeria. This means that a person who survives a suicide attempt will be harassed, arrested and punished by the state with an imprisonment term of up to one year.
“This bill suggests that suicidal people are in need of effective treatment, counselling and assistance, not punishment. Penalising attempted suicide is hardly a prevention method. Instead, the law should direct the appropriate authorities to assist the traumatised attempters. Self-destructive behaviour is often a cry for help, since suicide is mainly an indication of underlying mental and psychological disorder. The criminal laws are better suited for prosecuting criminal acts, not an exhibited call for help and act of distress,” he said.
Why suicide is prevalent among young people -Psychologist
Prevalent suicide in Nigeria, sad as it is, according to a psychologist, Linda Zanaffe, should not be a surprise. She stated that it is closely linked with the high degree of hopelessness and emptiness borne out of the conditions that Nigerians are compelled to live by in modern times. Her words: “Specifically, suicide among young people in Nigeria can be traced to parental neglect. It goes with the larger picture.
The need to make ends meet has made many parents feel nothing about sacrificing the most crucial parent/child bond. “Being absentee parents, they are never there to guide their children in order to bequeath to them principles and strong values that should become the bedrock of a sound and healthy outlook towards life. The result is that many children grow up without that foundation that helps build internal strength, and courage to confront life.
“To make matters worse, these young ones lack someone to turn to at the most crucial stages of development in their lives as their parents are hardly physically or emotionally there. The result? Lacking inner strength and understanding of life’s processes and stages or even themselves, these youths find very little meaning in life.
“They carry on as defeated or conquered individuals, who feel incapable of facing life’s challenges. However, these youths still carry a consciousness of societal and parental expectations of them. Inside of them, there is always raging anger and disconnect.
“They are all too conscious of what they have been denied and how they are expected to prove themselves. In spite of this, when crucial challenges knock on their doors, the foundation to face it is nonexistent. Depending on the gravity of the challenge, suicide for the youth concerned becomes the next option,” she submits.
How to spot a potential suicide attempter – Psychiatrist Speaking with Sunday Telegraph on what to look out for in a person that has the tendency to commit suicide, a psychiatrist, Dr Obi Nweke, said: “Usually, when people are depressed, they have suicidal ideation. Sometimes, they isolate themselves from their friends.
They don’t mix with people. They don’t talk like they used to. There is a need to increase awareness about depression and its signs. On what could have led to Tawa taking her life, he said: “She probably had been depressed for a long time. There must have been a series of events before the last one pushed her over. Depression is the most common cause. There may be side effects of certain drugs.”
By committing suicide, you’ve cancelled God’s purpose for your life – Cleric
A Christian cleric and Leader of the Greater Tomorrow Group, Brother Demola Samuel, believes committing suicide cancels God’s purpose for their person. “The person who commits suicide has said NO to God’s purpose for your life.
Pressure brings out what is in you. For instance, when you pressurise your stomach, you vomit. But who told you cannot withstand pressure. The Bible says in 1st Corinthians 10:13 that: ” No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind.
And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it. “God will not let us go through tribulations we cannot bear. We all have our levels but you may not know your level until you go through depression. You have not experienced much. You’ve gone ahead to kill yourself.
God brought you to the world to be an answer to a problem. When you kill yourself, you’re due for second death.” In his reaction, an Islamic cleric, Shehu Ibrahim Tijani, submits that there is noth ing a man is going through that someone else does not have it worse. “Time was when I was a trader at Jankara market. I had 12 apprentices and my shop was demolished. I had huge debts to settle. I was later selling my wares by the roadside, covering myself with a mat. I lost everything.
Ordinarily, someone would have committed suicide but it was not an option for me because I had faith in Allah. I bounced back. It was after when I thought I had lost everything that I visited Makkah in Saudi Arabia. I told myself I couldn’t believe it. I built my house later. If I had killed myself, would I be able to do everything I did? And there’s no way I will escape the judgement of Allah. It’s a sin to kill yourself.
We need national suicide prevention strategy
Following what he called the rising spate of suicide, a sociologist, Dr Kunle Ijaduola, said there was need to have a national suicide prevention strategy. “We need more than ever before a national suicide prevention strategy. We should make suicide prevention a health priority by providing easy access to mental health care.
Look at our religious leaders, for instance. They wield enormous influence on their followers. The National Orientation Agency will find dependable partners in Pastors, Imams and other religious leaders to tackle the ugly trend. “Governments at all levels must also treat the issue of poverty with all seriousness.
Tokenism or dishing out handouts will not cut it. If we must properly address the nagging problem of suicide, its causes must be tackled with special attention on preventive measures to make Sniper and other means of suicide unattractive.
“Also, introducing educative programmes that discourage suicide should be introduced in schools and workplaces. Parents and guardians should be on the alert for symptoms of suicides in their children and wards in order to promptly take preventive measures.”
According to Zanaffe, to reduce the present rather high suicide rate in Nigeria among the youth, “we must urgently recognize that they are in a stage where parental support and friendship is crucial. In all this, the society must be enhanced to make it easier for parents to invest the necessary time in the lives of their children to guard against hopelessness, loneliness as they journey into adulthood.”