The ‘best’, that is what I used to call you. Finally this is the end of my journey here on earth. The evil I’ve been battling with has succeeded in quenching the flame. You married a wrong man. You are a good woman and you deserve the best… Please take care of our princess, Chineyenwa. Don’t cry for me but pray for me. I love you and Chinenye so much. Good bye my beloved.The Suicide Note
Those were the last words of Mr. Ibeakanwa, a 46-year-old Lagos based banker on the 9th of August 2019 before he ingested a bottle of sniper and keeled over. Another casualty in the long list of Nigerians whose sojourn to the underworld has been of their own making.
The World health organization (WHO) reports that there are about 800,000 cases of suicide every year. Suicide has been identified as the second leading cause of death in people aged 15-29, in other words, it’s a young people’s thing. Young people are three times as likely to commit suicide as older people.
“It is feasible that in 2019 Nigeria, you know somebody who has committed, attempted or contemplated suicide. You would have to be living in an alternate universe not to. That is how endemic the scourge has become“
In 2019 alone, there have been dozens of reported suicides involving people of varying age groups and class. A young student who could not make the pass-mark for JAMB, A university undergraduate who incurred multiple carryovers, a pastor with accommodation issues, a young man even committed suicide because of a breakup and in May, a dramatic twist to the scourge, a boy live-streamed his attempted suicide on his Instagram story.
For many Nigerians, the ‘suicide thingy’ is another example of things we ‘picked up’ via exposure to oyinbo people.
Suicide is ‘un-Nigerian’ because the average Nigerian ‘loves to enjoy life to the fullest’. This notion is as fallacious as it is false and is part of the reason why there are almost zero appetites on anybody’s part to fight the epidemic. To them, the people who go down that part are ‘weak people’, even though it goes without saying that it takes a lot of courage for one to end his/her own life.
Suicide has always been part of the fabric of our society; it was only not as widely reported as it is today due to the influence of social media.
This begs the question, what spurs one to decide life is no longer worth living and kill oneself?
There are a number of factors that could drive one to end their life. I’ll be looking at two; Depression and mental illness.
This has become misconstrued with a lot of other emotional states, and as such, it is easy to find someone say they are ‘depressed’ even for the most minuscule things.
You’re stuck in Lagos traffic and running late for work, next thing, ‘I’m depressed’. You are a Chelsea fan and your team loses 4-0 to Man United and next thing, ‘I’m depressed’. You are not depressed, you are sad.
Depression is much more complicated. While your Chelsea lose will probably dissipate in a few hours after the match, depression will stay around for much longer, affecting your mood, the way you act, eat, think or even associate. This is usually because of the factors that contribute to depression. They include;
Differences in certain chemicals in the brain may contribute to symptoms of depression. These chemicals are known as neurotransmitters such as serotonin, dopamine, and norepinephrine. These chemicals control a lot of bodily functions like sleep, aggression, sexual behavior, and mood and as such, their release or lack of release by the brain can lead to depression.
Depression can run in families. If one of the identical twins has depression, the other has a 70% chance of having the illness in the future.
People with low self-esteem, who are easily overwhelmed by stress or who are generally pessimistic appear to be more likely to experience depression.
continuous exposure to violence, neglect, abuse or poverty may make some people more vulnerable to depression.
The four highlighted sub-factors above, in my opinion, are some of the main reasons Nigerians chose to end it all.
The feeling of dejection, that the world ‘hates’ them, that every other person is better than them. That feeling of ‘it can only get worse’, ‘Where do I go from here’. This is where counseling and therapy come in but we are lagging behind in this aspect. (More on this later)
Mental Illness usually arises as a ‘co-factor’ along with depression which then leads to suicides. Some of these illnesses include anxiety disorders, schizophrenia, eating disorders and substance abuse. These conditions create the ‘perfect storm’ for one to end one’s life.
To tackle suicide effectively, we need to tackle depression and mental illnesses and the way to go about that is to make it easier for people with these challenges to get access to all the help they need.
Therapy and counseling centers should be created nationwide and properly staffed with professionals. Radio and TV jingles should be encouraging people with depression to visit these centers for help and not die in silence, Antidepressant medication should be made available (free of charge if possible) to those suffering from chronic depression and finally all Nigerians should be their brother’s keeper, listen to people when they lay out their hearts to you, a word of comfort from you might keep somebody alive for another day or two.
Never be quick to brandish your ‘My case worse pass your own’ card. You may be ‘strong’, the person opening up to you might not be. Do not be the friend that reminisces about a dead friend, be the friend that saved him.
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