By Denrele Animasaun
“When you feel like giving up, just remember the reason you held on for so long.” – Unknown
Every 10th September across the globe, organisations and communities come together to raise awareness of suicide prevention.
Suicide is not a hot topic and one that Nigerians do not care to openly discuss.
This aside, Nigeria is the 15th highest suicide rate in the world and the highest in Africa. Last year, I wrote about the easy access of Sniper- Produce permits for Sniper June 23,2019.
Despite calls and protests to limit access of Sniper to the general population, it continues to be sold openly in stores and market stalls.
‘ For as little as N500, one can procure Sniper, the poison of choice for those who want to end their lives in Nigeria.
According to Vanguard Newspaper, the Director General of NAFDAC, Christiana Adeyeye, said Sniper containers “could now be made very difficult to open, or may be turned into a spray rather than the liquid contents it is known for.”
The suicide rate has increased in Nigeria with Sniper among the pest killer agents popularly used.
For those who dismiss the alarming trend, they do so out of denial, ignorance and indifference. Time to take their heads out of the sand. In the UK, when paracetamol was limited to buyers, suicide rate decreased and in stores up and down the UK, one can not buy more than a packet at a time. Nigeria should have a permit on Sniper, so only licenced farmers and agricultural personnel can procure Sniper from licensed sellers.
Suicide prevention remains a universal challenge. Every year, suicide is among the top 20 leading causes of death globally for people of all ages. It is responsible for over 800,000 deaths, which equates to one suicide every 40 seconds.
Every life lost represents someone’s partner, child, parent, friend or colleague. For each suicide approximately 135 people suffer intense grief or are otherwise affected. This amounts to 108 million people per year who are profoundly impacted by suicidal behaviour. Suicidal behaviour includes suicide, and also encompasses suicidal ideation and suicide attempts. For every suicide, 25 people make a suicide attempt and many more have serious thoughts of suicide.
Suicide rate in Nigeria has reached an alarming level and regrettably, the nation is ill-equipped to deal with suicide in any shape or form.
Nigeria has the 15th highest suicide rate worldwide and this is not something to be proud of.
WHO report stated that Nigeria has 15 per cent suicide rate per 100,000 people, making it the fifth highest suicide rate in the world after South Korea (24 per cent), Russia (18 per cent), India (16 per cent) and Japan (15.4 per cent
More men kill themselves than women.
Alarmingly younger men more so . Presently, in Nigeria there is no gender gap and that is due to easy access to Sniper by anyone.
The age-standardised male rate is 17.5 per 100,000 people, while the female rate is 17.1. Nigeria has the 56th highest suicide rate among men, but the 3rd highest among women. We cannot close our eyes to these facts.
The government has been too slow to act. It recently announced; that ‘it may direct a change’ in the package of the agro chemical pesticide poison of choice for those attempting to end their lives.
Nigerians deserve a more decisive action. This is not the time to play wait and see, every missed opportunity means more lives lost.
Do we really value Nigerian lives? If we do, then we have a fine way of showing it.
We must do better; every life prematurely extinguished is a loss of potential to contribute to the nation’s economy.
The lack of hope, purpose, belonging and grinding poverty is adversely affecting our young people. They seem to be the forgotten generation, such is the pity as they are the future of the nation. The lack of investment for the young in most states will go back and bite the nation at the derriere. The lack of opportunity in education, training and employment is glaringly obvious.
Subsequent governments lined their pockets while citizens ‘depleted commonwealth is not enough to ensure robust health care services or provisions..
Young people are merely existing and most are depressed or suicidal.
Unless the government provides youth mental health support groups with trained facilitators , satellite community mental health service should be available in environments young people naturally frequent — like schools, mentorship programs, summer camps and community centres — rather than solely relying on mental health clinics.
Perhaps most important, we must not rely on old assumptions of what it looks like to be at risk for suicide. Most people do not look ‘mad’ and there is no type, depression has no type; it can happen to anyone.
Nigerian Facebook user, Adeleke Rachel Tioluwani has reportedly committed suicide 11 months after writing about “depression and suicide”.
According to the deceased’s friends who mourned her exit on social media Tioluwani was facing lots of challenges which pushed her into depression and suicide.
University of Ibadan lecturer took his life on April 6, 2019, after an unfulfilled dream of completing his PhD programme. The one committed by a worker in Kogi State over alleged non-payment of salary, and the over six reported cases of undergraduate suicides in April 2019 only succeeded in eliciting momentary frenzy across the country.
Some other widely reported suicide cases included that of a 100-level student of Kogi State University, Ayingba, who was jilted by her boyfriend and decided to end her life by taking a pesticide, and another year one student of Chemical Engineering at the University of Port Harcourt, Rivers State, who also decided to say bye to the world by drinking two bottles of the deadly pesticide.
And we need to encourage young people to express negative thoughts and emotions without shame or fear of judgment.
Nigeria has an estimated physician-patient ratio of one doctor to every 4,000 to 5,000 patients – six times smaller than the physician-patient ratio (one physician to every 600 patients) that is recommended by WHO and yet the nation is Haemorrhaging it’s precious life line.
Nigeria Health Watch projects that with Nigeria’s population on the rise (it is slated to double by 2050, according to the United Nations), the country will need to stop losing doctors and instead start bringing more in – at a rate of 10,605 per year – to keep pace with overall patient demand.
The lack of understanding of mental health is disturbing even amongst the educated people; the culture, religion, belief and ignorance is staggering.
Globally, 322 million people are suffering from depression ; a common mental disorder that presents with depressed mood, loss of interest or pleasure, decreased energy, feelings of guilt or low self-worth, disturbed sleep or appetite, and poor concentration.
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Men in particular find it difficult to seek help or tell anyone there is a shame to admit they are not coping, that they have failed, have financial issues and of course, there is an impenetrable taboo and stigma surrounding mental illness. We do not have to reinvent the wheel but we can gain insight from other countries and modify to fit the nation’s mental health needs.
For instance, in the UK ,the zero suicide approach gaining traction in the UK is a shift from accepting that suicide for some people may be inevitable and impossible to catch in time. It is an aspiration to build structures and services to prevent every suicide, ending a public services culture where people don’t ask and people don’t always feel comfortable to say.
Advice for those feeling low in mood or suicidal:
Talk to someone you trust, speak to friends and families and let them know how you feel and what they can do to support you and how you can keep safe.
Try not to think about the future – just focus on getting through today,
stay away from drugs and alcohol
get yourself to a safe place, like a friend’s house
be around other people
do something you usually enjoy, such as spending time watching a movie, read a book, listen to the radio.
If in crisis contact please contact-Mentally Aware Nigeria (MANI)
MANI is the largest provider of crisis support services in Nigeria, handling over 15,000 cases .
They also provide mental health education programs to hundreds of schools and workplaces with thousands of beneficiaries.
They support and give treatment to people with mental health issues.
How to support people in crisis-
Let them know that you care about them and that they are not alone, empathise with them. You could say something like, ‘I can’t imagine how painful this is for you, but I would like to try to understand,’
Be non-judgemental. Don’t criticise or blame them.
Reassure them that they will not feel this way forever,
encourage them to focus on getting through the day rather than focusing on the future.
Ask them if they have a plan for ending their life. Ask what the plan is, encourage them to seek help that they are comfortable with.
Important that you follow up any commitments that you agree to and make there is someone is with them if they are in immediate danger.
If you are also affected please seek help. Asking for help is not a sign of weakness but a sign of strength.