As the world celebrates awareness on suicide prevention, there’s no better time than now to draw the public’s attention by way of sensitising them on the increasingly creeping menace of suicide in the country.
Recently, the media was awash with the report of a well-known Lagos socialite, who attempted to take her life over a failed relationship.
Were it not for passers-by who rushed in to prevent her from jumping into the lagoon, where she had parked her car to take the dive, she would have, by now, added to the increasing number of suicide rates in Nigeria.
Prior to that, in the month of August this year, a middle aged man had reportedly jumped into the lagoon, and his body, recovered days after.
Every suicide is a tragedy that affects families, communities and entire countries and has long-lasting effects on the people left behind. Not to mention the stigma that last almost forever.
According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), every year , 703 000 people take their own life with many more people who make an attempt at committing suicide.
No fewer than 79 persons were reported to have committed suicide in Nigeria in 2022, which comprised 70 males and 9 females, according to a newspaper report.
But the figure did not include the number of cases that were not reported in the media.
The breakdown of the figure showed that Lagos ranked highest with 12 suicide cases; followed by Oyo 10; Kano four; Anambra three; Edo, three; Delta, three; Ogun, three; and Rivers, three.
Borno, Bayelsa, Abia, Benue, FCT, Imo, Enugu, Niger, Jos, Jigawa, Kaduna and Kwara had two cases each.
Others such as Ondo, Osun, Kebbi, Nasarawa, Gombe, Cross-River, Kogi, Adamawa, Ekiti, Bauchi, and Yobe, had one case each.
Suicide is a global phenomenon in all regions of the world. In fact, over 77 per cent of global suicides occurred in low- and middle-income countries in 2019.
However, findings only reflect the suicidal events captured by the news media and are, therefore, not the actual estimates of suicidal events in Nigeria.
In the absence of a comprehensive official source on suicide deaths in Nigeria, perhaps the only available sources of information are media articles on suicide.
According to Nigeria’s penal code, Chapter 27, Section 327, ‘Any person who attempts to kill himself is guilty of a misdemeanour, and is liable to imprisonment for 1 year’.
Nigerian law also criminalises abetment of suicide. Also, under chapter 27, section 326 of the Nigeria penal code:
Any person who (1) procures another to kill himself; or (2) counsels another to kill himself and thereby induces him to do so; or (3) aids another in killing himself; is guilty of a felony, and is liable, to imprisonment for life.
Therefore, it can be argued that information and news about suicide attempts are likely to be hidden and possibly underreported because of fear of prosecution by law-enforcement agencies.
According to extracted completed suicide reports, the highest media report rate in the country was 0.27 per 100 000 population in the South West region followed by North Central (0.22 per 100 000), South East (0.21 per 100 000), South-South (0.19 per 100 000), North West (0.07 per 100 000) and North East (0.04 per 100 000) in 2019.
In women, poisoning (64.5 per cent), hanging (18.4 per cent ) and jumping (6.6 per cent) were the most common methods, whereas, in men it was hanging (47.7 per cent), poisoning (25.4 per cent) and jumping (12.7 per cent).
Stigma, particularly surrounding mental disorders and suicide, means many people thinking of taking their own life or who have attempted suicide are not seeking help and are, therefore, not getting the help they need.
The prevention of suicide has not been adequately addressed due to a lack of awareness of suicide as a major public health problem and the taboo in many societies to openly discuss it.
The WHO recognises suicide as a public health priority and its first world suicide report, Preventing suicide: a global imperative, published in 2014, aimed to increase the awareness of the public health significance of suicide and suicide attempts and to make suicide prevention a high priority on the global public health agenda.
Suicide occurs throughout the lifespan and was the fourth leading cause of death among 15–29-year-olds globally in 2019.
It is reported that while the link between suicide and mental disorders (in particular, depression and alcohol use disorders) and a previous suicide attempt is well established among high-income population, many suicides happen impulsively in moments of crisis with a breakdown in the ability to deal with life stresses, such as financial problems, relationship break-up or chronic pain and illness.
In addition, experiencing conflict, disaster, violence, abuse, or loss and a sense of isolation are strongly associated with suicidal behaviour.
Suicide rates are also high amongst vulnerable groups who experience discrimination, such as refugees and migrants; indigenous peoples; lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex (LGBTI) persons; and prisoners.
It is estimated that around 20 per cent of global suicides are due to pesticide self-poisoning, most of which occur in rural agricultural areas in low- and middle-income countries, while other common methods of suicide are hanging and firearms.
WHO said globally, the availability and quality of data on suicide and suicide attempts is poor.
As a newspaper, we are worried that suicide is becoming commonplace especially among the youth and middle aged population, who see it as an escape route.
Even though we know that other factors like mental health are underlying factors, we cannot rule out economic considerations as largely contributory to suicide.
The exasperating situation is not helped by the hunger and harsh economic realities biting hard on the populace over the last eight years, which going by records, have spiked suicide rate.
WHO’s approach to suicide prevention, recommends the following key effective evidence-based interventions: limit access to the means of suicide (e.g. pesticides, firearms, certain medications; foster socio-emotional life skills in adolescents; and early identify, assess, manage and follow up anyone who is affected by suicidal behaviours.
We also note that suicide prevention efforts require coordination and collaboration among multiple sectors of society, including the health sector and other sectors such as education, labour, agriculture, business, justice, law, defence, politics, and the media.
These efforts must be comprehensive and integrated as no single approach alone can make an impact on an issue as complex as suicide.
In addition, the suicide mortality rate is an indicator of target 3.4 of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by 2030, to reduce by one third, premature mortality from noncommunicable diseases through prevention and treatment, and promote mental health and well-being.
We are of the view that there’s need to raise religious and community awareness in breaking down the taboo, which is quite important to make progress in preventing suicide