In recent times, reported cases of suicide are becoming very common in Nigeria with many victims being teenagers with an apparent links to the relatively new insecticide in the Nigerian market – Sniper.
In the last couple of weeks, more cases of suicide have been reported with most of the victims being students and teenagers. These raised alarm bells about the state of mental health care in the country. Last month, the media was awash with the story of a 300-level student of Medicine and Surgery of the Niger Delta University (NDU), who committed suicide for failing his examination. Chukwuemeka Akachi, a final year student of the Department of English and Literary Studies at the University of Nigeria reportedly on two previous occasions drank kerosene and petrol in an attempt to kill himself but was rescued. Few days ago, Nafeesah, a Level 200 student of Computer Science at ABU Zaria took some drugs – not sniper- in large dose causing acute poisoning.
Nigeria’s National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC), a few days ago, announced a ban on Sniper, an agro-chemical marketed in Nigeria by Swiss-Nigerian Chemical Company. Sniper, originally meant for the farm but which has over time been wrongly domesticated by most Nigerians, is predominantly used as household insecticide and rodent-killer because of its effectiveness in killing insects better than well-established brands.
Besides, society is putting too much pressure on people. It is true that sometimes life can be so cruel that you find no reason to live a day more. You lost your job? You failed the exams? The richest people in society are those who were not so good in school. Some didn’t even get the chance to get education but with hard work and determination, they are making it big. It takes patience.
Furthermore, if the people/actions that hurt you deserve that you to die for them, what about living for those who love you: the only people likely to be affected by your death? Just imagine the face of your loved ones at your funeral! Just imagine how they will watch you as you are laid in state. As they cry, they know you died a preventable death. Is it fair to subject them to this pain? Their only crime was making you a part of their lives.
The good news is that depression is treatable with medication and psychological therapies. Of course, social support of family, friends, and faith community is also vital and part of the holistic approach to treatment.
In order to prevent suicide, it requires the efforts of many. It takes family, friends, co-workers, community members, educators, religious leaders, healthcare professionals, political officials and governments. Individuals must practice speaking out their mind. We can attain inner peace by confronting the realities of our own suffering.
The Ministry of Health and Education must actually lead a national debate on how to fix the country’s broken mental health delivery system. Also equally important for Nigeria is the need for evidence- driven (mental) health policies and suicide prevention strategy. A ban on Sniper is not a long-lasting effective solution, but a strategy to reduce suicide. There has to be a robust programme which takes into consideration the need for awareness. The absence of sniper without the later will only create alternative means of suicide as long as the motivations for the action are not addressed.
At family level, more channels of communication should be opened. Accessible mental health services and support in educational institutions are critical. Action initiatives that ensure that we all know what it is and can receive care, both from professionals like initiating targeted mental health programmes in schools, workplaces, social groups through regular dose of targeted regular motivational and cognitive behavioral session with students in small groups will go long way.
Suicides are preventable. These efforts must be comprehensive and integrated as no single approach can make an impact on an issue as complex as suicide.
Choose life, live life: say no to suicide.
Yusuf Hassan Wada, Usmanu Danfodiyo University, Sokoto