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Suicide: No One Heard Their Silent Cry For Help

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Incidences of suicide have been on the rise in the past few weeks with the deaths leaving loved ones with heartache and overwhelming sense of regret and pain. In this report, CECILIA OGEZI captures the underlining signs of suicide cases

Date: 20 May, 2019. Place: Niger Delta University, Ammasoma, Ijaw South Local Government Area of Bayelsa State. Incident:  A 300-level medical student of the institution, Uzakah Ebiweni, committed suicide. Mode:  Ebiweni dived into the Amassoma River and drowned before he could get help. Reason: Ebiweni, a student of Surgery and Medicine at the Faculty of Basic Medical Sciences of the NDU, it was learnt decided to kill himself following his failure his failure at the MBBS examination which results were released last week Friday.

Ebiweni, it was gathered, dropped a hint about his suicidal intention on his WhatsApp status update before he committed the act.

Suicide cases among youths around Nigeria is a disturbing recent phenomenon calling for urgent attention. Since it is ultimately a private act. It is difficult to put into words the suffering and agonized state of mind of those who kill themselves.

Personal accounts of those who have contemplated or attempted suicide provide a glimpse of the psychological pain that culminates in a desperate act.

According to findings, only a minority of those who kill themselves actually write suicide notes, and these only infrequently try to communicate the complex reasons for the act. Still, some consistent psychological themes emerge. Clearest of these is the presence of an unendurable heartache, captured in the simple phrase, “I can’t stand the pain any longer,” a phrase often seen in suicide notes or heard by clinicians after an attempt.

On 13 May 2019, a final year student of the University of Nigeria, Nsukka committed suicide following what he described as his inability to continue staying on life support.

Chukwuemeka Akachi was a student of English and Literary Studies.

In a Facebook note he left before the act, Akachi said he had been battling with mental problem, and had been hooked on life support.

His was the seventh case of Nigerian undergraduates who felt frustrated enough to do themselves in. It was also the second case that would be recorded in UNN between 2012 and 2019.

Onyebuchi Okonkwo was studying Physics and Astronomy at the UNN. He was in his third year when he hanged himself on the school premises.

Another of the earliest incidents was on April 7, 2014.  Auwal Haruna, 30, was a student of the Taraba State University studying at the Nigerian Law School in Abuja. He was complicit in the murder of their father Mohammed. So he strung himself up in a hotel room when he went to Taraba.

There were no fewer than seven incidents between 2017 and 2018 involving varsity students taking their own lives over a range of reasons: depression occasioned by family problem, broken relationship, mental health, and exam failure.

Poor academic performance reportedly led to two cases at the Obafemi Awolowo University between 2017 and 2019.

So the OAU and the UNN are leading amongst Nigeria’s ivory towers where suicide is catching on.

Other incidences include: October 2017: Mercy Afolarami was 16, and at 100 level, studying Microbiology at the Obafemi Awolowo University. She was said to have caved in under emotional pressure, and she gulped a lethal cocktail of rat poison and battery extract. Her friends however noted she also scored ‘E’ in CHM101.

February 2018: Wilson Chukwudi of the Abia State University failed twice in his final year exams. He too killed himself.

March 10, 2018: Adams, studying Computer Engineering at the University of Benin, hanged himself right in his room at Ekosidi, Ovia Northeast LGA.

July 10 2018: Aduba Daniel, from the Niger Delta University, Bayelsa, downed a whole bottle of Sniper because he failed four courses.

Nov 22, 2018: Jennifer Alongo, 21, a computer science undergraduate stabbed her cheating boyfriend and later poisoned herself, thinking he was dead. He, however, survived it, but Alongo didn’t. Both were students of the Imo State University.

April 15, 2019: Tejiri Direia, 21, dropped out of the Delta State University in her third year of studying Nursing Science. She locked herself up in her room and took Sniper.

April 18, 2019: 20-year-old Rebecca Michael, a 100 level Philosophy student of the Kogi State University downed for a loveless relationship, which just ended, drank Sniper.

April 23, 2019: Kolapo Olowoporoku was studying Computer Science at OAU and had outstanding courses to clear while his mates graduated. He drank a poisonous substance when he failed again.

April, 2019: Charles Orji, a lover boy, from the Ken Saro-Wiwa Polytechnic’s estate management department, was badly shaken when his girlfriend, whom he allegedly cheated on, skipped out of their relationship. Before he drank Sniper, he sent his last message to the sister of his ex, warning her to take responsibility if anything happened to him that night.

May 1, 2019: Hikmat Gbadamosi was a 100-level student of the University of Port Harcourt, Rivers, where she drank two bottles of Snipers, and died. The cause was not related to finances because she was from a rich family. But she left a video record where she said, “It worsens every time and I don’t know who to call.”

Late last year, the death of a young girl rocked the social media and other news platforms leaving many people emotionally broken and completely sad. The young lady, who was a 300 level student of the Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria, reportedly took her own life due to depression, hopelessness and self-pity.

She was reported to have ingested harmful substances but left a goodbye note. In the farewell note, the woman allegedly stated that her life had become “a living hell” and she also noted that her parents blamed her for their mistakes and suffering.

Nigerians reacted to the sad news in several ways. Many expressed condolences with the girl’s family but others blamed the parents for pushing the girl so hard with their biting criticism.  The Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria stated that the woman died at her apartment in Samaru after drinking “Sniper,” a highly poisonous insecticide substance. Many youths have also followed the her example.

The growing number of suicides in Nigeria has become alarming and very worrisome. Members of the society are beginning to agonize and feel disturbed over the rising rate of suicides especially among youths in the country.

Various reasons have, however, been alluded for being responsible for suicide. None of these findings reveal, justifies taking one’s life.

It is also said that society often misunderstands people who experience periods of intense disappointments or negative vibrations in their lives.

Some of the victims of suicide were once boisterous people who suddenly become excessively quiet, detached, grave and distant.

Being distant, reserved or cold towards people including close relations in general is second nature to introverts and society has often mistakenly regarded lonely people as introverts simply because they are aloof even while such people are experiencing a turning point in their lives.

A recent World Health Organisation (WHO)’s suicide ranking, showed that 1000,000 people die globally from suicide every year, with 15.1 suicides per 100,000 people annually.

Nigeria now ranks the 30th most suicide prone country out of 183 nations in the world.

To put this in perspective: between 1964 and 1973 (between the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution and the Paris Peace Accords) approximately 58,000 U.S. servicemen and women lost their lives in the Vietnam War (Centre for Electronic Records, 1998). During this same period, approximately 220,000 citizens died by suicide (Bureau of the Census, 1976; NCHS, 2001). From 1979 to 1999, 448,060 people in the United States died from AIDS and HIV-related diseases; over this same 20 years, 626,226 people died by suicide (Figure 1-1). The suicide crisis continues unabated.

A gospel minister, Michael Arowosaiye also recently committed suicide in Abuja.

It was gathered that he committed suicide because he had accommodation issue which led to depression.

A Facebook user, Godwin Cena David, broke the sad news on his page.

It was learnt that Arowosaiye, who regularly performed at RCCG programmes, was said to have hung himself with his belt on Tuesday at Sunnyvale Estate, Lokogoma District, Abuja.

When some saw the church singer’s (minister) suicide was reflecting badly on the very wealthy pastors and church, wickedly they brought stories of the singer having sent nudes to a woman and it was leaked. Others said his wedding was called off by his would-be bride over his sleeping with someone else.

It still goes to show how worship places, schools and work places should play a role in the general welfare of its staff and students, beyond just looking for them to deliver in Schools or tasks in the worship places.

Experts say mental disorders, including depression, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, personality disorders, and substance abuse including alcoholism and the use of benzodiazepines are risk factors. Adding further that suicides are impulsive acts due to stress, such as from financial difficulties, troubles with relationships, or bullying.

A psychologist, Dr.  Zuwaira Doreen Yusuf, University of Alberta, Canada explained that most times people with such problems just bottle it up and as a result depression takes its toll on them until they can take it no more.

According to Yusuf, many people who open up most times get help.

She bemoaned the poor infrastructural state of most universities in the country noting that most of them had no centres where social workers, psychologists or counsellors were employed to attend to students who might require psychological help.

Yusuf said, “Having lectured for 12 years in Nigeria and with my experience outside Nigeria I can say the relationship between lecturers and students is not cordial. There are no centres to help counsel students on our campuses. The economic situation is also a contributing factor and social media has a strong mental effect on young people today.

“Other factors include societal demands, peer pressure, drug abuse and pressure from family and broken homes.

“Families today are no longer what they used to be, there is no cooperation among families like before and that often leaves the feeling of hopelessness that can give rise to depression.”

She advised that it was imperative for government to begin to hire counsellors, psychologists and social workers at the secondary school level through tertiary institutions around the country to arrest the situation.

Another psychologist, Mrs Patience Sunday, explained that those who have previously attempted suicide are at a higher risk for future attempts.

She noted that one of the major reasons for suicide is depression, impatience refusing to believe in oneself, poverty where the government has failed to provide jobs for teaming youths thereby increasing hardship.

She explained that suicide is never caused by one single event or thing, it happens after several factors have come into play. These according to Sunday include economic hardship, fear of failure, depression and heartbreak and disappointment sexual abuse and unemployment.

“A person who is experiencing or experience suicidal thought may show feeling of intolerable emotional pain, feeling of hopeless, having or appearing to have an abnormal preoccupation of violence, dying or death; talking about revenge, guilt or shame, consuming drugs or more alcohol than usual engaging in risky behaviour such as driving recklessly.

“It can also be genetic suicide. In most cases, it could be avoided if depression is treated. It is very helpful to know if the family has a history of depression anxiety bipolar illness or schizophrenia,” she said.

Sunday arrogated the seeming helplessness of people to help suicide to dearth of professional managers of depression.

The psychologist explained that why suicidal cases occurred almost unnoticed was that people were not professionally trained to notice the signs or symptoms presented by a would-be suicide or a suicidal person.

She pointed out that causes of depression could not be easily detected until after thorough examinations by professionals adding that the process might take some time.

Sunday noted that mental disorders could be brought about by a variety of factors which may include biological changes, physical changes but which are hardly visible for people to see.

She further explained that some cases of depression might require long-term treatment to get the needed results, adding that most people who get worse were those who abandoned treatment half way.

Iman of Damagaza village mosque in Lokogoma, Abuja, Mallam Sa’id Ishaku, who spoke with our correspondent noted that Islamic teachings do not support suicide while adding that most cases of suicide are as a result of frustration or hardship.

“Our teachings do not support suicide as one who commits such has no place in the heavenly. The recent cases of suicide require prayer but some of them are related to poverty, hardship and sometimes drugs” he said.

He continued: “The reason these things degenerate to the point of some committing suicide is because many times we take it for granted and go about our activities without reaching out to these people who might be suffering from terrible experience.”

Resident Pastor of Royal Ordained People’s Assembly in Lokogoma,  Abuja,  Landstrong Donatus Okoye, explained that suicide happens when people feel helpless and hopeless looking for solution but not insight.

He described it as a feeling that all doors are closed against the person making it hard for such a person to see beyond their immediate environment or situation.

He also noted that spiritually demons could enhance suicide especially when frustration led to such a person taking alcohol or drugs making it hard for the person to have any strong will.

Speaking on why students in tertiary institutions may commit suicide he stressed that they could be involved in cult activities that exposed them to spiritual attacks, noting also that family pressure and peer pressure are also causes of suicide.

He advised that there is always presence of spirits during confusion, violence and it is left for a person to be sensitive to it as obsession, oppression and possession are factors that come to play in suicide cases.

Many are of the opinion that government should set up centres in schools, work places and other public places to help people deal with depression, just as is found in more advanced societies, centres are established where people, who are lonely and depressed, can go to seek help and solace.

This is, however, not so in our culture where people are left to their own devices and no help comes until they commit suicide even when we could have saved them with little help.

Meanwhile, the criminal Code of the Federal Republic of Nigeria states inter alia, in Chapter 27, Section 327: “Any person who attempts to kill himself is guilty of a misdemeanour, and is liable to imprisonment for one year.”

Suicide is a crime in some parts of the world including Nigeria, however, while suicide has been decriminalized in the western countries, the act is still stigmatized and discouraged. In other contexts, suicide could be utilized as an extreme expression of liberty, as is exemplified by its usage as an expression of devout dissent towards perceived tyranny or injustice which occurred occasionally in cultures like ancient Rome or medieval .

And there is still the small matter of the laws regulating the practice of mental health in Nigeria, which remains the obsolete Lunacy Act of 1958, that we inherited from the British Colonial Government.

The revised Mental Health Bill has been before the National Assembly for so many years now, but has not received any attention.

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