The authorities could do more to reduce the pressure on Nigerians from all sides
Following the recent death by suicide of a medical practitioner who jumped into the lagoon by the Third Mainland Bridge in Lagos, there have been other similar attempts along the same bridge. That has prompted the Lagos State Police Command to ban walking on bridges across the state or the parking of vehicles on them. While we understand the police action to stop what may have become copycat suicide attempts, facts on the ground suggest that suicide is becoming prevalent across the country, mostly as a result of the dire economic situation. That should worry the authorities.
A consultant psychiatrist at the Ladoke Akintola University Teaching Hospital, Osogbo, Dr. Adeoye Oyewole, while acknowledging that suicide cases have been with us for a very long time, nonetheless believes that the current economic hardship has led to the spike. He said more and more Nigerians were getting hopeless and depressed and those who could not bear the pain resort to suicide. The notes left by the few who gave reasons for their action bore testimony to that conclusion.
From hanging self with rope or electric cable to drinking poisonous substances, Nigeria has unfortunately become a country where so many things that were in the past considered taboo now happen virtually every day—and these include the extreme act of deliberately taking one’s life. Even without statistics, reports on suicide involving Nigerians have grimly moved from an occasional blip to a very disturbing trend.
Only last January, the Assistant Inspector General of Police (IGP) Zone 5, Abubakar Mohammed, lamented the growing rate of suicide in the Force. “The IGP has asked us to now go close to our officers as well as the rank and file to know what their problems are because the level of suicide within the police is getting higher. Police officers are killing themselves without us knowing what their problems are,” he said.
There are many theories as to why some Nigerians now take their own lives. Indeed, the nation’s present socio-economic environment could be a predisposing factor to depression and perhaps suicide. There is enormous emotional and financial stress as well as pervading poverty and hopelessness everywhere. From the North to the South of the country, 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. Many of them are exasperated. Yet it is an established fact that impoverished individuals are a major risk group for depression. And depression, according to experts, is the most common reason why people commit suicide.
But there are also other reasons why people take their own lives and devastate members of their family and friends with shock. Mental disorders such as schizophrenia, excessive alcoholism, drug abusive play significant role in triggering suicidal thoughts. Yet, it would appear that neither the society nor the critical agencies of government are paying attention to the issue of mental health.
Today, 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. Depression, one of the main culprits of suicide is treatable. This is why we call on all authorities to take out for rehabilitation the mentally challenged who roam the streets. Public officials at all levels should also by way of good governance pay serious attention to the constraints that could trigger in the people suicidal thoughts.