By FIDELIS MAC-LEVA, HARUNA IBRAHIM, OJOMA AKOR & RONALD MUTUM
As Nigeria joins other countries in marking this year’s World Suicide Prevention Day, no fewer than 264 suicide cases were recorded in the country within the last 4 years, Daily Trust investigation has shown.
The theme of this year’s World Suicide Prevention Day is ‘Working Together to Prevent Suicide”.
The victims comprising males and females took their own lives between January 2017, and August this year, according to Newspaper reports reviewed by Daily Trust within the period.
This figure excluded numerous suicide cases that have not been reported by the media.
Daily Trust reports that suicide remains a criminal offence in Nigeria.
Under Section 327 of the Criminal Code Act, attempting to kill self carries a penalty of up to one year in prison.
“Any person who attempts to kill himself is guilty of a misdemeanour and is liable to imprisonment for one year,” the section said.
Why people commit suicide
Experts say some of the reasons for the reported suicides range from financial hardship, marital issues, depression and job losses among others.
Analysis by the Daily Trust for the time under review showed that Lagos State (South-West) topped the tally with a total of 23 suicide cases.It showed that within the first and second quarters of last year alone, no fewer than 42 Nigerians among them 11 students committed suicide by consuming the deadly insecticide called sniper while others either drank acid or set themselves ablaze.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) estimates that close to 800, 000 people die due to suicide every year.
This means at least one person kill self every 40 seconds.
The International Association for Suicide Prevention (IASP) said suicide is the second leading cause of death among 15-29-year olds globally.
It has also been estimated that every year, about 30,000 people die by suicide in the U.S., while 650,000 others receive emergency treatment after a suicide attempt.
According to WHO Suicide Ranking, with 17.1 suicides per 100,000 populations in a year, Nigeria ranked the 30th most suicide-prone out of 183 nations.
Suicide is a global phenomenon with 78 percent of cases occurring in low- and middle-income countries as at 2015 while 1.4 percent of global deaths in 2017 were said to be from the phenomenon.
Nigeria is also ranked 10th African country with higher rates of suicide, leading countries like Togo (26th), Sierra Leone (11th), Angola (19th), Burkina Faso (22nd), with Equatorial Guinea and Cote d’Ivoire occupying 7th and 5th positions respectively.
More suicides recorded in 2019
A breakdown of the reports reviewed by Daily Trust indicates that the year 2019 recorded the highest number of suicide incidences with 85 cases.
This was followed by the previous year (2018) during which 79 suicide cases were recorded.
A total of 66 suicide cases were recorded in 2017 while 34 cases have so far been recorded between January and August this year.
While many of the victims died after consuming the deadly chemical commonly called ‘sniper,’ others committed suicide by hanging while some victims died by setting themselves ablaze either with petrol or inside their vehicles.
A study by the Suicide Research and Prevention Initiative (SURPIN), conducted at the Lagos University Teaching Hospital (LUTH), revealed that “out of every 66 suicide victims cumulatively recorded in 2018, only about 37.9 percent committed or attempted it through conventional means, while nearly 62.1 percent bade life farewell through the consumption of poison, especially the deadly chemical- Sniper.”
On March 25, 2019, the picture of an SUV on Third Mainland Bridge, Lagos graced the pages of many Nigerian newspapers.
As it turned out to be, that car belonged to a physician, Dr. Allwell Orji who had parked and jumped into the lagoon.
Similarly, on May 13, 2019, the body of Chukwuemeka Akachi, an undergraduate of the Department of English and Literary Studies, University of Nigeria, Nsukka was discovered by a passer-by after he had successfully executed his suicide mission in the solitude of an uncompleted building located at the Sullivan Road, Nsukka.
He was said to have slipped into a coma after taking two bottles of the deadly sniper.
Although passers-by reportedly rushed Akachi to the UNN Federal Medical Centre in an effort to revive him, it was too late as he was declared dead at the hospital.
In another case, Christabel Omoremime Buoro, a 21- year- old 300-level student of the Department of Medical Laboratory Science, University of Benin (UNIBEN), reportedly killed herself after she was allegedly jilted by her boyfriend.
On June 18, 2019, her lifeless body was discovered in her flat at Plot 4, Uwaifo lane, Newton Street, Ekosodin area, behind the university.
Christabel was said to have drunk the mixture of the deadly sniper chemical with a bottle of soft drink leaving behind a suicide note where she reportedly stated that she was taking her life because her boyfriend broke up with her.
Medics explain signs of a suicide mission
Medical experts listed certain signs that someone maybe thinking or planning to commit suicide.
According to them: change in behaviour or the presence of entirely new behaviours; when a person is always talking or thinking about death or killing self; when a person loses interest in things he or she used to care about and making comments about being worthless, helpless or hopeless.
Others include when the person has depression, takes risks that could lead to death, the sudden switch from being very sad to being happy, visiting or calling people to say goodbye, looking for a way to kill themselves such as searching online for materials or means, acting recklessly and withdrawing from activities among others.
Why people commit suicide
Dr. Maymunah Yusuf Kadiri, a Consultant Neuro – Psychiatrist and Psychotherapist said people commit suicide for several reasons, such as depression, reactions to failure and disappointments, response to accumulated domestic violence, unemployment, alcohol dependence, drug use and abuse, among others.
She said suicide was not the best way of dealing with personal loss or the way to manage any situation.
“Suicide has to stop and this involves joint campaign by everyone,” she said.
Speaking on how to discourage people from committing suicide, Dr. Kadiri, who is also the Medical Director of Pinnacle Medical Services, Lagos, said: “There is a need to develop resilience (the ability to cope with adverse life events and adjust to them), a sense of personal self-worth and self-confidence, effective coping and problem-solving skills, and adaptive help-seeking behaviour because they are often considered to be protective factors against the development of suicidal behaviours.”
Mental challenges encourage suicide
According to Dr. Monday N. Igwe, who is the Medical Director of the Federal Neuro-Psychiatric Hospital, Enugu, suicide has always been with us in Nigeria.
He noted that because of the cultural impediments (seen as a taboo) the incidences are being under-reported.
He said with the improvement in communication through the social media, suicide cases are now easily shared to a vast majority of people but added that this also has its implications.
On the causes and solutions to the menace, he said: “Many reasons have been given; untreated mental illnesses especially depression, other psychosocial factors like unemployment, natural and man-made disasters.
“Other factors include increasing family disharmony, social and economic exclusion among others.
“It requires a multi-sectorial and a multi-disciplinary approach involving various government ministries, agencies and departments especially that of health, labour and employment and other social services to address it,” he said.
COVID-19 and suicide cases
A psychologist, Dr. Yemi, said the impact of COVID-19 has heightened the cases of depression among the people as a result of the loss of sources of livelihood and loved ones, among other factors.
The expert said the situation is further worsened with the increasing cost of livelihood and limited options for the people.
He said, “People have overcome COVID-19 but are yet to recover from the social-economic impact of the pandemic.
“People have lost jobs, and businesses have collapsed. A lot of people are complaining and feeling frustrated.
“They talk about the government not being bothered about their plight.
“This period is when they expect the government to provide support for them with all that happened with COVID-19.
“But the government increased the price for fuel and electricity making the common man thinks all hope is lost,” he said.
What the police said
There was no readily available official figure of suicide cases as efforts to get the information from the police were not successful.
The spokesman of the Nigeria Police Force (NPF), DCP Frank Mba, said on Wednesday that the police prosecute suicide suspects based on the merits of the case.
He was responding to questions by Daily Trust on the number of suicide cases, including those rescued and being prosecuted by the police.
Mba explained that police authorities are concerned on the high level of suicide cases in Nigeria and treat them as mental cases.
He said it would be double jeopardy to prosecute suicide suspects while they were suffering from health issues.
The police spokesman said they use their medical department to council those who attempted suicide, including the use of Christian clergy and Muslim clerics to counsel the suspects.
Also, a source in the security circle said figures relating to suicide are being kept as “secret” insisting that “not every information is meant for public consumption.”
Government, parents, clerics key to averting suicide
Some Nigerians spoken to yesterday told the Daily Trust that government, parents, clerics and opinion moulders are strategic to curtailing suicide.
Halima Abubakar, a student at the University of Maiduguri, said governments at all levels should be responsive to the wellbeing of the people.
“The youths commit suicide more than the aged and this is because they feel short-changed.
“In the event someone is looking for admission but could not get, or he is in school but finding it difficult to feed, or has graduated but there is no job, what do you think would happen?” she asked.
Johnson Mark, a trader at the Utako Market in Abuja said parents should be blamed for some suicide cases.
“Most parents don’t have time for their children.
“They don’t watch them closely to understand their problems and some children feel abandoned and therefore commit suicide,” he said.
Ustaz Aminu Abdullahi in Jos said clerics should be taking time to preach the implications of suicide.
“In Islam for instance, the punishment for anyone who commits suicide is that he or she will dwell in hellfire.
“Also, clerics should make their followers understand that there is a condition that is permanent.
“Certain things are trials from the Almighty and if someone facing challenges commits himself to God, he would overcome them,” he said.