These were the words of the Speaker, Lagos State House of Assembly, Mr. Mudashiru Obasa, while reacting to reports of suicides and attempted suicides which appear to be on the increase in the state.
In this report, Vanguard INSIGHT takes a look at the increasing rate of suicide, reasons why people commit or attempt suicide, tales by survivors and views of experts.
Call it a season of suicides you will probably not be far from stating the obvious. The truth is that unlike what obtained in the distant past when taking one’s life was not an option easily contemplated for whatever reason, recent developments appear to suggest that Nigeria is presently passing through a phase of suicide epidemic as evidenced by increasing cases of people taking their lives for sundry reasons.
Take, for instance, the latest case of a 40-year-old man identified as Adekunle Oluseyi from Ondo State who on Friday October 20, 2017 jumped off the Lekki/Ikoyi Bridge into the lagoon in Lagos. His body was found the following day by a fisherman and subsequently recovered by a team made up of officials of the Lagos State Emergency Management Agency, LASEMA, Lagos State Waterways Authority and Marine Police.
The police are still investigating the incident to establish the motive behind Adekunle’s decision to take his life.
Four days earlier, precisely on October 16, a 54-year-old civil servant in Kogi State, Mr Edward Soje, committed suicide by hanging himself on a tree at the Mammy Side of the Army Barracks in Lokoja, the state capital. A farmer reportedly found his body dangling from the tree and alerted the personnel at the Nigeria Army Command Record. Soje, a level 16 officer and Director in the state Teaching Service Commission, took his life barely nine days after his wife of 17 years gave birth to a set of male triplets in a private hospital in Abuja through IVF. The couple had been childless before then.
But unlike Adekunle whose motive for taking his life was not clear, Soje was said have left a suicide note for his wife who works in one of the federal ministries. The cryptic suicide note read thus: “Psalm 121:3: God will not suffer your foot to be moved: He that keepeth you will not slumber. Amen. You and the three boys, God Almighty will keep you and prosper you. Amen. I love you.”
It has also emerged that the decision to take his life was a tragic reaction to his inability to cope with the worsening hardship occasioned by the non-payment of 11 months salary he was being owed by his employers.
These are cases out of many recorded in recent time. Indeed, the news media continues to be awash with stories suggesting an alarming rise in the number of individuals who wilfully took their lives for sundry reasons, including those, like Adekunle, who did so by jumping into the lagoon or canal in Lagos.
Nigerians seriously began to take notice of this alarming trend on Sunday, March 19, 2017, when one Dr. Orji Allwell, a young promising physician, jumped into the lagoon from the Third Mainland Bridge. A few days later, a lady jumped into a canal in Maza Maza area of Lagos. Luckily for her, some young men who were around the canal quickly came to her rescue.
On April 8, a man attempted to commit suicide by jumping into a canal in the Festac area of Lagos. Around the same period, a 20-year-old taxi driver in Port Harcourt took his life by hanging himself, obviously out of frustration probably caused by the seizure of the vehicle by the owner.
When a 31-year-old man, Hammed Olojo, was recently arrested by the Police and charged before an Ebute Metta Magistrates’ Court in Lagos for attempting to commit suicide by jumping into the Lagos lagoon, it immediately evoked memories of the alarming upsurge in suicide cases recorded in the state since the beginning of the year. According to the Prosecutor, Kehinde Olatunde, a police sergeant, Mr. Olojo committed the offence on August 27 at about noon on the Third Mainland Bridge in Lagos. Mr. Olatunde informed that the accused was apprehended while attempting to jump into the lagoon and was quickly restrained, adding that the offence contravened Section 235 of the Criminal Law of Lagos State, 2015.
Although the accused pleaded not guilty to the charge, reports have it that in spite of the seeming lull in suicide cases in the past weeks, there are clear indications that many Nigerians are presently on the fast lane of taking their own lives due to one reason or the other.
Another remarkable case takes us back to last January when a level 12 civil servant in Ekiti State, Tope Afolayan, reportedly took his life due to frustration caused by unpaid salaries and huge debt. Afolayan, a native of Ara-Ekiti in Ijero Local Government Area, was a Principal Executive Officer, PEO, in the Office of Accountant-General until the unfortunate incident. Tope, a husband and father of three children, was said to have been found hanging from the ceiling of his room days after complaining of failure to pay his debts because of the non-payment of arrears of salaries owed government workers.
Complaining of failure
Flash back to September 2016, an 18-year-old secondary school girl named Mary attempted to kill herself because her boyfriend dumped her. Same year, an undergraduate in a Nigerian university committed suicide aided by a conversation on the internet.
These were the reported cases, many more went unreported. Suicide is as old as man. In the Igbo society of old, a person who committed suicide was buried in the evil forest because it was believed he had done evil. In most Third World countries, suicide is believed to be caused by demons as some who survived said they heard voices asking them to kill themselves.
But it has since emerged that there are more medically verifiable reasons why some people decide to take their lives; reasons why they readily succumb to overwhelming suicidal thoughts.
Flashes of suicidal thoughts
“Depression is not something I would wish on my enemy,” said Angela. “After my national youth service, I was so optimistic about getting a job immediately so as to bring relief to my mother who suffered so much as a widow to see me through school. Unfortunately, three years went by with no job in sight. I got depressed and started feeling worthless, unloved and unwanted by family and friends.
“I wanted to be by myself all the time because I didn’t feel like talking to anybody. It was like hell. I lost appetite, lost the drive and the will to live. Most times I would take a long walk on lonely streets, hoping to feel better but all to no avail. I was uncomfortable in my skin; most times I felt like jumping out of my body, but it was impossible. Then something started nudging me to end it and get away from the torture because honestly, it was pure mental and emotional torture.
“As the voice kept suggesting to me to end it all and get out of the misery, I began to give it a thought…I thought of sleeping pills overdose, rat poison which seemed the easiest way, but somehow, when I was ready to do it, another voice would tell me it was the devil asking me to destroy myself. His mission is to steal, to kill and destroy. At this point, I would begin to call on Jesus to help me. Of course, prayer was not easy at all but I always managed to say a few words of prayer at such times and I’d feel better but shortly after, I’d lapse into that depressive mood again.
“Unfortunately, those around me could not tell I was passing through hell; they felt I was just being moody, which they saw as bad habit. Each time they asked what was wrong with me, I would say: ‘Nothing!’ They were sympathetic initially but as time went by, they were fed up and became antagonistic, adding to the problem.”
Mr. Tony, a middle-aged man with a very good, well paying job had attempted suicide a number of times until he started therapy and got better. “As a child growing up with my parents in our poor home, my mother was so strict that I was practically terrorised by her. To be fair to her, she was doing what she thought was best for me but it was doing more harm than good. It is always good to allow children be children. As a result of her strictness, as soon as I left home for the boarding house, I became a free man without control. I started breaking all the rules, doing things my mother would never have imagined. I smoked and drank so much that I became addicted to nicotine, alcohol and pornography. I became dependent on these things that I could not function without them. My self-esteem and confidence depended on them. At a point, I discovered life was meaningless to me, I became depressed and attempted suicide several times by taking drug overdose. Each time I took it and went to bed thinking I’d die, I would wake up the following morning.
I am sure God was looking out for me, otherwise, I am not supposed to be still alive now. Fortunately, in one of the times I attempted to kill myself, someone saw me as sick and took me to hospital where they diagnosed severe depression. There and then, I was assigned a therapist and my long journey through treatment began.
I underwent therapy for a very long time until I was able to come off alcohol and nicotine and began to live normal life. I am not totally out of it though because some things may happen in my relationships and at work that will trigger the depressive mood and thoughts of not wanting to live. “
Rita, a promising pretty young lady had this to say about her own experience: “I come from a very dysfunctional family. So for me, depression has always been a lifestyle. Growing up with grandparents and having annoying school mates who can’t wait to call me a bastard at the slightest provocation, a constant reminder of my mother’s negligence and father’s denial at my birth, was depressing.
“Being alive with the consciousness that you have a mother out there on the run not only makes you feel that sense of abandonment but also makes you question the general glory attached to a mother’s love for her child. The last straw is when your ‘father’ doesn’t acknowledge your existence, and will rather continue with his womanising escapades. So yes, I was a product of a one- night-stand between two young people (16 and 20) and I had to grow and learn the hard way, asking God everyday why He let it happen.
“I spent most of my time dreaming of how my life would have turned out if I was born in a normal home; a home void of verbal, physical and emotional abuse. A home where the people you look up to for protection are not the same people that tear you down. A home where your stepmother wouldn’t transfer aggression on you anytime she gets provoked by your father.
SUICIDE PREVENTION AWARENESS
September of every year is tagged Suicide Prevention Awareness Month, while September 10 of every year is World Suicide Prevention Day, WSPD, a day set aside to create awareness and provide worldwide commitment and action to prevent suicides, with various activities around the world.
Also September 10 – 16, 2017 is National Suicide Prevention Week. This period is used to reach out to those affected by suicide, raise awareness, and connect individuals with suicidal thoughts and tendencies to treatment services. The International Association for Suicide Prevention, IASP, in collaboration with the World Health Organisation, WHO, and the World Federation for Mental Health hosts World Suicide Prevention Day.
Suicide Facts from World Health Organisation (WHO)
*Suicide is the second leading cause of death in youth ages 15 – 24 years.
*It is the 10th leading cause of death in the U.S and 13th worldwide.
*90% of those who died by suicide had an underlying mental illness.
*43.8 million adults experience mental illness in a given year in America.
*Nearly 60% of adults with a mental illness didn’t receive mental health services in the previous year.
*1 in 5 children ages 13-18 have, or will have a serious mental illness.
*Suicide accounts for nearly half of all violent deaths in the world.
According to Brian Mishara, president, International Association for Suicide Prevention, IASP: “More people kill themselves than die in all wars, terrorist acts and interpersonal violence combined.”
*The number of people who die by suicide is expected to reach 1.5 million per year by 2020.
*South Korea had the highest suicide rate.
*In some countries like China, young people 15–34 years old are more likely to die by suicide than by any other means.
*In 2009, the four countries with the highest rates of suicide were all in Eastern Europe – Belarus, Latvia, Russia and Slovenia while Latin America, Muslim countries and a few Asian countries have the lowest rates.
*Nigeria ranks 30th out of 183 nations with 15.1 suicides per 100,000 population per year.
*Reports say as of 2011, an estimated one million people die by suicide every year or “a death every 40 seconds or about 3,000 every day.” According to WHO, for every one successful suicide, there are 20 people who have a failed suicide attempt, at a rate approximately one every three seconds.”
Suicide Prevention Awareness Month Themes
2003 – Suicide can be prevented!
2004 – Saving Lives, Restoring Hope
2005 – Prevention of Suicide is Everybody’s Business
2006 – With Understanding New Hope
2007 – Suicide prevention across the Life Span
2008 – Think Globally, Plan Nationally, Act Locally
2009 –Suicide Prevention in Different Cultures
2010 – Families, Community Systems and Suicide
2011 – Preventing Suicide in Multicultural Societies
2012 – Suicide Prevention across the Globe: Strengthening Protective Factors and Instilling Hope
2013 – Stigma: A Major Barrier to Suicide Prevention
2014 – Light a candle near a Window
2015 – Preventing Suicide: Reaching Out and Saving Lives
2016 – Connect, Communicate, Care
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