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Why Nigerian youths are becoming more suicidal


Yusuf Mohammed

Barely two weeks after the New Year’s celebrations, a young man in Lagos, Dele Bandele, was declared missing by his friends and family. A few days later (January 12), it was discovered that he had committed suicide.

Bandele, an advertising agent, left what seemed to be a suicide note on his Instagram page in which he mentioned his battle with depression. He stated that he had battled depression for seven years and was about to go find peace.

Sadly, Dele is not the only Nigerian youth who has killed himself in the name of ‘finding peace.’ There are several cases. In fact, going by tweets of many young people on Twitter in the wake of Dele’s death, it is clear that depression and suicidal behaviour is very common today.

In the past, suicide used to be alien to Nigerians. But today, it is fast becoming a worrisome trend. In the last three years, there have been reports of no fewer than 10 suicide cases in the country. And for the past three years, people have taken to jumping into the Lagos Lagoon as a means to end it all.

Before now, a lot of Nigerians only used to hear of suicide as a strategy in guerilla warfare. Boko Haram members would strap themselves with bombs and blow themselves up in public places killing people with them.

However, in recent times, it has assumed a new dimension which has nothing to do with war against others. It is a war solely against oneself.

Is it a result of bullying on social media? Is it the level of poverty? Is it the high rate of unemployment?

The question on the lips of many Nigerians is: what could be responsible for this disturbing trend?

According to a global survey in 2011, a 53-country Gallup poll, Nigerians were rated at 70 points for optimism and the country was ranked first as the happiest place in the world. Despite the many challenges plaguing the country, Nigerians are quite resilient.

Eight years after the poll, Nigeria dropped to 85 on global happiness report. The last report in 2020 showed that Nigeria is no longer in the top 100. Nigeria is currently ranked 115 out of 153 countries.

In 2018, Nigeria overtook India in extreme poverty ranking, thus, becoming the poverty capital of the world.

Now ending one’s life to escape from life’s struggles is fast becoming the order of the day. Just like a pandemic, it is spreading like wild fire.

It would be recalled that in July 2020, social media users took to Twitter, to express outrage and demand justice for a young man who committed suicide after he was added to a “list of rapists” on Twitter.

The Florida-based Izu Mmadubueze took his own life after being accused of rape.

In June, a Twitter user (@nanichianese) had published names of men whom she claimed were sexual abusers. She also claimed she was asked to compile the list for “safety purpose. I have heard some folks ask for a compounded list of abusers to avoid for safety purposes. I will add to this thread as I find out more names,” she wrote.

Izu, who was said to have been on the list, had reached out to the lady to find out whom his accuser was so he could clear his name.

The lady, however, was said to have refused to disclose the victim’s identity, claiming the victim would prefer to remain anonymous. After further probing, she disclosed the harassment was not physical, but won’t be revealing any further details.

His last tweet on July 17, 2020 read: “Oh and if you’re reading this, I’m dead lol.”The lady who was behind the said list deactivated her account amid reports that she had made advances at Izu in the past but was rejected.

In May 2019 alone, there were about four reported cases of suicide by Nigerian youths. Some even made public announcements that they would end their lives before actually committing the act. It sounded like a joke until it happened.

On May 4, 2019 in Lagos, one Kenile Nwabuzor killed herself following an unending disagreement between her and her boyfriend simply known as David. She ended her life because her boyfriend was no longer interested in the relationship. Shortly before the incident, it was reported that she sent a text message to David complaining that he had made her life miserable and that she would commit suicide. She did exactly that.

Nine days later, 22-year-old Chukwuemeka Akachi, a final year student of the Department of English and Literary Studies at the University of Nigeria, Nsukka (UNN) killed himself. Akachi, who was said to have had a protracted battle with mental illness, had on two previous occasions tried to take his life by drinking kerosene and petrol.

As a result of the earlier suicide attempt, all eyes were on him. Two of his lecturers even made it a duty to counsel him almost on a daily basis and also take him out for leisure just for him to banish the thoughts of taking his life. But their efforts were in vain.

On that fateful day, the young man was said to have appreciated one of the lecturers for taking him out before penning his suicide note and posting it on his Facebook page. He wrote: “Forgive me. In case you are the one who found the body, I am really sorry. It had to be someone, you know. I have chosen Jo Nketaih’s poem as my suicide note: “They said you came looking for me. I didn’t drown; I was the water.’ Where do atheists go to when they die? Lo!. Amen,” he wrote.

He later went to an uncompleted building on Sullivan Road, Nsukka, and drank two bottles of ‘Sniper,’ and slipped into coma. Some passersby found him and rushed him to the university’s teaching hospital where he was confirmed dead by doctors.

On May 14, in Jos, Plateau State, a story of a 17-year old Amos Ibrahim who committed suicide made the rounds. He reportedly took his life after failing the 2019 Unified Tertiary Matriculation Examinations (UTME).  He was schooling at University of Nations which is a Christian university but his mother was not comfortable with him there. She withdrew him because she felt he would become a pastor in the future.

He wrote the UTME hoping to gain admission into one of the public universities but it proved abortive. The boy suffered from depression and ended his life by drinking Sniper, a deadly insecticide, which is meant for pest control.

In a similar vein, a 100-level student, Olaitan Gbadamosi who was only 18 killed herself two weeks after celebrating her matriculation. The chemical engineering student of the University of Port Harcourt had committed suicide allegedly because of depression. Before the incident, she posted a short video clip of herself crying. She locked herself in her room and drank Sniper. Her body was found when her friend broke into the room. What they found was her almost decomposing body and a can of Sniper on the floor.

A Twitter user with the handle @tweetsofShegun almost took his life for scoring a low mark in the 2019 UTME. In 2018, he posted a sympathetic post on Twitter saying he lost his dad when he was six years old and that his poor mother had to cater for him and his three siblings. After reading his story a Twitter user named Pamilerin Adegoke offered to sponsor him through the university if he gained admission.

According to the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Therapy Consult, Lagos, Ms. Salem Pat Ogulowo, depression and unresolved grief are the major causes of suicide among the youths.

“No child in his right senses would want to terminate his/her own life. The social media is an influence; no doubt about it. But you see, there is nothing good about depression. It is something that when it’s there, you go to bed feeling good and the next morning you just find out that you are not yourself.

“Depression that becomes clinical craves death. And the route to depression is unresolved grief. Maybe somebody you look up to suddenly dies and you just feel that your life cannot go on. Unresolved grief could also arise from anger, abuse, bullying, and peer pressure which the youths are facing these days.

“They are looking at celebrities; they are looking at the western world and want to belong. They have somebody that they idolize and want to look like. Majority of them are also looking for validation. You find out that wanting to meet parents’ dreams like excellent performance in schools also puts youths under a lot of pressure. These are all issues that come up with the youth these days and some of them who are finding out they cannot attain them get depressed and then commit suicide” she said.

On the way out she said, “At the individual level, can you give up some of the things you are chasing and be more available for your child, because in the real sense of it, you don’t really need those things you are chasing. We must redefine what we want.

“At the institutional level, do they have to go through all they are going through to get admission? And that is where the government comes in. You know one of them reportedly committed suicide after failing JAMB. Is government planning for these children? Government is not planning for them. So, they feel abandoned. Some of those ones who did not commit suicide will ultimately join Boko Haram, kidnapping gangs or engage in other crimes because they feel frustrated.”

Mr. Odera Onuoha another psychologist who spoke with The Street Journal put most of the blame on social media, He said, “Now, news travels faster than before. The advent of social media will only make the situation worse. Yes, there is hardship in the country today but there was also hardship in the past. The difference is that it is very easy to get influenced today, especially as a young person. The good, the bad and the ugly are all on social media.

“If one young man in Ibadan decides to end his life due to one form of hardship, another young man in Enugu who is going through a similar problem could be encouraged to take the same action. Is it our way of life? No! But you know with social media, these things have a way of crossing the border very fast.  The social media needs to be regulated. Parents should pay more attention to their children’s online activities.”

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