The prevailing economic condition is contributory to the string of suicides

The recent death of a lecturer with the Kwara State University and a 300 Level student of the Abubakar Tafawa Balewa University, Bauchi through suicide has again brought to national limelight the rate at which many Nigerians are now taking their own lives. From jumping into the lagoon to hanging self with rope or drinking poison, reports on suicide have moved from an occasional blip to a very disturbing trend in our country. Also worrying is that it is not restricted to any demographic group as both the young and the old are killing themselves.

According to some recent World Health Organisation (WHO) Suicide Ranking, with 15.1 suicides per 100,000 population in a year, Nigeria is now the 30th most suicide-prone (out of 183 nations) in the world and the 10th in Africa. While that should worry the authorities and critical stakeholders, there are many theories as to why these Nigerians take their own lives and they are traceable mostly to the enormous emotional and financial stress as well as pervading poverty and hopelessness everywhere.

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. 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.

Medical practitioners under the aegis of the Society of Family Physicians of Nigeria, (SOFPON) have been raising concerns about the growing number of Nigerians living with depression. According to a SOFPON official, Dr. Blessing Chukwukwelu, in Nigeria, “only one-fifth of those with a depressive episode receive any treatment, and only one in 50 receives treatment that is minimally adequate.” She recommends that medical practitioners who see various cases of ailment at the Primary Health Centres should be trained on how to identify the symptoms of depression.

“The primary care is the sector that affects the health of the nation; so, preventing a condition at this level will not let it progress to the secondary level. When a physician takes a good history, he is able to diagnose the disorder; family physicians have the tools to tackle and also refer to the psychiatrist when he needs to,” she noted.

While the authorities must begin to deal with this problem, there are also other reasons why people take their own lives and devastate members of their family and friends with shock. For instance, underlying mental disorders such as schizophrenia, excessive alcoholism, drug abusive 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”.

Today, the use of hard drugs–particularly Indian hemp, cocaine and even methamphetamine are commonplace in the society – drugs whose adverse effects range from depression to suicide. Indeed, drug abuse has become very prevalent across the country today and it is a social problem in many of the northern states. But it would appear that neither the society nor the critical agencies of government are paying attention to this malaise.

However, given the socio-economic situation in the country, it is also obvious that many citizens are reaching their breaking points with the conclusion that they are better off dead. It is such situation of hopelessness that may account for the growing rise of suicide. Therefore, public officials at all levels should also by way of good governance pay serious attention to the socio-economic constraints that could trigger in the people the urge to take their own lives.