The Man on The Electric Pole

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The authorities should begin to pay serious attention to the socio-economic constraints that now trigger in many Nigerians suicidal urges

For close to eight hours, a Cameroonian named Fredrick Gino recently enacted a public life-and-death drama in Lagos when he climbed an electric pole and threatened to kill himself after reportedly expressing frustration about his material condition. Gino was lucky that there was no power current to facilitate his electrocution before he was eventually rescued by the Lagos State Emergency Management Authority (LASEMA) officials. But that should not be the end of the story. Attempted suicide is a serious offence under the criminal code applicable in Lagos and if the man had committed the same offence in his country,
(Cameroon) he would have been charged to court by now.

However, the Gino saga has also brought to the fore the rising cases of suicide attempts in our country. On Tuesday evening, men of the Lagos State Rapid Response Squad (RRS) prevented a mother of four from jumping into the Lagoon with a 12-month-old baby. According to reports, a cab driver had drawn the attention of the RRS riders on routine patrol to the woman who, on interrogation, said she had heard a voice propelling her to go and take the fatal plunge with her baby.

From jumping into the lagoon to hanging self with rope or electric cable, Nigeria is becoming a country where so many things that were in the past considered a taboo now happen virtually every day—and these include the extreme act of deliberately taking one’s life. Even without statistics, reports on suicide have grimly moved from an occasional blip to a very disturbing trend across the country today.

There are many theories as to why some Nigerians now take (or make attempts to take) their own lives. Indeed, the nation’s present socio-economic environment could be a predisposing factor to depression and perhaps suicide. Therefore, given that there is enormous emotional and financial stress as well as pervading poverty and hopelessness everywhere, there is a need for the authorities to begin to examine some of the underlining causes with a view to finding remedies for them.

In Nigeria today, the plight of the under-privileged is steadily worsening and many go to bed with less than a survival diet. The unemployment crisis has created a lost generation of graduates who cannot find jobs while the dwindling prices of crude oil in the international market and the falling value of the national currency are likely to compound the problem for most Nigerians. Yet it is an established fact that impoverished individuals are a major risk group for depression which, according to experts, is the most common reason why people commit suicide.

However, there are also other reasons why people take their own lives and devastate members of their family and friends with shock and grief. Underlining mental disorders such as schizophrenia as well as excessive alcoholism and drug abuse play significant role in triggering suicidal thoughts. Schizophrenia is a disease with a wide range of weird symptoms like hallucinations, inner voices, disordered thinking and irrational fears and “emotions that seem out of tune with reality”—like the Lagos woman who was hearing a voice telling her to go and jump into the lagoon with her baby.

Today, the use of hard drugs—particularly Indian hemp, cocaine and even methamphetamine are commonplace across the country—drugs whose adverse effects range from depression to suicide. Indeed, manic depression—an emotional seesaw, oscillating between exhilarating highs and devastating lows—is often cited as one the reasons why there are so many mad men and women out there on most of our major cities.

However, breakthroughs in science and medicine have brought hope that many mental patients can lead normal and productive lives. So are suicide victims if help can reach them early enough. Besides, depression, one of the main culprits of suicides is treatable. This is why we call on all authorities to take out for rehabilitation the mentally challenged who roam the streets of our major towns and cities. Beyond that, public officials, at all levels, should also begin to pay serious attention to the socio-economic constraints that now trigger in many Nigerians suicidal thoughts.

QUOTE: It is an established fact that impoverished individuals are a major risk group for depression which, according to experts, is the most common reason why people commit suicide