There is need for adequate attention to mental health services, writes Sonnie Ekwowusi

Have we become a suicidal people? Why am I asking this question today? Because last week was a suicide week in Nigeria. On 12th May 2019, Chukwuemeka Akachi, a budding poet, 400-level student of the Department of English and Literary Studies, University of Nigeria, Nsukka, (UNN) committed suicide. On Monday, 14th May 2019 a Redeemed Christian Church of God,(RCCG) pastor Michael Arowosaiye committed suicide at Sunnyvale Estate, Lokogoma, Abuja over his accommodation problem.

In fact, the month of May 2019 has been a suicide month in Nigeria. For instance, on Wednesday, May 1, 2019, a middle age man committed suicide by jumping down from the fifth floor of the University College Hospital (UCH) Ibadan, Oyo State. On the same May 1, 2019, Hikmat Gbadamosi, a 100-level student of the University of Port Harcourt, Rivers committed suicide. She drank two bottles of snipers. On May 4th 2019 a 26-year old hairdresser committed suicide in Lagos because she was jilted by her boyfriend.

Apart from the month of May, the months of March and April 2019 were suicide months in Nigeria. For instance, on March 23 Charles Orji, a graduate of Ken Saro-Wiwa Polytechnic killed himself because his girlfriend dumped him. On or about 6th April 2019 a former Maths lecturer of University of Ibadan (UI) simply identified as Mr. A.O Subair committed suicide by setting himself on fire at UI senior staff quarters located at Phillipson Road of the University. On April 23, 2019 Kolapo Olowoporoku studying computer science at Obafemi Awolowo University(OAU) committed suicide. On April 15, 2019, Tejiri Direia, 21, a Delta State University dropout, committed suicide. On Wednesday 17th April 2019, Miss Rebecca Michael, a 100-level student of Kogi University committed suicide after she was jilted by her boyfriend. On Saturday April 27, 2019, Miss Olaitan Gbadamosi, 18, a 100-level Chemical Engineering student of the University of Port Harcourt, committed suicide.

The year 2017 was also a suicide year in Nigeria. On Monday, March 20, 2017, a 35-year-old medical doctor identified as Allwell Orji, parked his beautiful Nissan X-Trail SUV car by the side of the Third Mainland Bridge, Lagos and jumped into the Lagos Lagoon. On November 18, 2017, Dr Solomon Osunlola, a lecturer at the Department of Crop Production, College of Agriculture, Kwara State University committed suicide. In October, 2017, Mercy Afolarami, 16, studying microbiology at OAU committed suicide.

The year 2018 was also a suicide year in Nigeria. On 19th February, 2018, Wilson Chukwudi, a student of Abia State University committed suicide because he failed to graduate after spending two extra academic sessions. On March 8th 2018, one madam Uzoaku (66), a native of Achalla-Umana, Mgbakwu committed suicide simply because her two children who graduated from higher institutions in Nigeria many years ago were unable to secure employment. On March 9, a 32-year old female banker and a mother of two committed suicide in Ughelli, Delta State because her husband brought his mistress to be staying with them in their matrimonial home. On March 10, 2018, Adams, a First Class graduating student of Computer Engineering, University of Benin, committed suicide. Still on infidelity, on March 24, a 75-year-old man and a father of 10 called Mr. Charles Okafor committed suicide at Akitinyi village, Urum, in Awka North Local government area of Anambra state over his wife’s infidelity. On July 10 2018, Aduba Daniel, a student of Niger Delta University, Bayelsa committed suicide because he was asked to re-sit four courses in the university. On August 16 2018 a young girl committed suicide in Delta State after her parents annoyed her. Two days later, Loveth aged 18 committed suicide after she scored 160 in the JAMB exam which was too low for admission to study medicine. On Tuesday 2 October, 2018 a frustrated middle-aged man jumped into the Lagos Lagoon and died. On November 22, 2018, Jennifer Alongo, 21, an undergraduate killed her cheating boyfriend, and, thereafter committed suicide. On December 2018 Aisha Omolola, a 300 level student of Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria killed herself because her mother and brother quarreled with her.

I can go on and on reeling out nasty suicide cases in Nigeria. In the past suicide was rare in Nigeria. Today it is commonplace. What is happening to us in Nigeria? Is Nigeria cursed? It seems as if all the worse crimes have been afflicting Nigeria since 2016. Check them out yourself: Boko Haram terrorism, Fulani herdsmen terrorism, banditry, kidnappers laying siege to the expressways to kidnap motorists and passengers, assassinations, execution of uncountable Nigerians abroad for different alleged crimes, trafficking of Nigerian women, ritual killings, women selling their eggs, parents selling their children, rape and incest. Now suicide is rampart in Nigeria. In 2018 Nigeria was ranked as a suicide-prone country.

Today Nigeria is ranked the fifth in the world among countries whose citizens are most prone to commit suicide. In June 2018 the Daily Trust newspaper reported that 79 Nigerians committed suicide between April 8, 2017, and May 12 2018. Everyone is worried. In keeping with its tradition of penning timely and incisive editorials on national maladies, THISDAY last week published an editorial on suicide with the title: “A Deluge of Suicide Notes.” Why should the suicide rate in Nigeria not soar to high heavens when life is not livable in Nigeria? Why should suicide not overtake Nigeria when human life has become so cheap in Nigeria? To worsen matters our cultural, family and religious values are fast disintegrating. This is why a pastor of a church who ought to be counselling suicidal people should commit suicide himself over accommodation problem. It is also for the same reason that a student should proceed to kill himself for scoring a low grade in the JAMB exam.

Solution: Governments should lessen the worsening hardships and living conditions in Nigeria at the moment through concrete and directed policies capable of improving the wellbeing of the people. Most people from troubled homes are depressed, paranoid, angry and melancholic. More importantly, they are suicide-prone. Therefore the family which is the fundamental unit of society should be strengthened. One of the greatest challenges in the prevention of suicides today is giving suicide-prone people the urgent treatments that could save their lives.

This is not only a matter of access to emergency medical clinics, but also socialization and counselling programs and public education especially in our tertiary institutions. Suicidal people and their families should seek help early enough. Our tertiary institutions, churches, mosques and other public places should recruit suicide interventionists, social workers and therapists to attend to suicidal people. NGOs with competence in counselling suicidal people should be established in different parts of Nigeria. Governments should set up suicide crisis centres across the country for suicide treatment, management and therapy.