Like a pandemic, the devastating tentacles of suicide have become far-reaching. Almost weekly, reports of suicides make headlines nationwide. More worrisome is the fact that it has become the second leading cause of death for children and teenagers between five and 24 years.
The need to have this worrisome trend nipped in the bud prompted a non-governmental organisation in Lagos, Mind and Soul Helpers Initiative (MASHI), to organise a lecture for students of International School, University of Lagos, Akoka, Yaba.
The event, which had the theme “Depression and Suicide Among Adolescents,” was attended by more than 100 students in the senior classes. Most of the speakers blamed parents for being responsible for the rate of depression and suicidal tendencies among teenagers.
To drive home the importance of depression and suicidal education among students as well as caution parents on the inherent dangers, some of the speakers also shared real-life experiences about suicide with the students.
The first suicide incident recounted reportedly took place about a year ago, and it involved a senior student of the school. The deceased was said to have ingested an insecticide, because he could not stand the shame of repeating a class. The second one was an 11-year-old boy in the United States who took his life because his friends taunted him over his disability.
At the end of the session, it was concluded that the watchful eyes of an adult, particularly parents, could have prevented both incidents.
Describing depression as a fundamental issue in today’s society, Mr. Julius Ibiyokun, a clinical psychologist at the Federal Neuro-Psychiatric Hospital, Yaba, Lagos, said it was mental illness and depressed mood disorder that cause consistent feelings of sadness, guilt and low self-worth on the sufferer.
He informed the participants that suicide, which is the result of irrational thoughts and a product of depression, is a fatal act initiated with an intention of ending one’s life.
Ibiyokun averred that people who commit suicide do not really want to die but just want to end their pain or misery. He noted that some teenagers go through depression without knowing, adding that they end up embracing drugs in the process of trying to address their depression.
“It is normal to feel down at times. Almost everyone feels low sometimes but the ability to overcome depressive moods matters very much. Taking one’s life is a criminal offence. Whatever life’s challenges are, suicide is never an option,” the psychologist said.
He added that psychologists and parents contribute to children committing suicide, noting that high expectations of parents from their children often causes frustration and gradually leads children to exhibit symptoms of depression.
According to him: “When an adolescent who is usually active suddenly becomes withdrawn, uninterested in activities that previously excited him, wants to always be alone, shuns social life, begins to experience low self-esteem or poor concentration, such might be going through depression. Other signs could be eating and sleep disorders, drop in grades, always exhibiting sadness and talking about being tired of life.”
The psychologist noted that the World Health Organisation (WHO) revealed that depression was a global public concern estimated to affect 350 million people. He said the body had asserted that depressive disorders often start at a young age and usually come with symptoms of anxiety.
Mr. Promise Adiele, director of programmes for MASHI, lamented that what most times caused depression was a trivial matter.
He spoke about his teenage son who usually became depressed and refused to eat or play anytime his football club, Manchester United, lost a match. According to him, it took the intervention of his younger sister to cheer him up enough to get out of the depressive mood.
He charged parents to always observe and be conscious of their children’s behaviour. He also cautioned them against the use of derogatory words, curses or comparison on children, noting that these things contribute to the high rate of teenage suicide.
“Phrases like, ‘You will not amount to anything.’ ‘Don’t you see your friends? Do they have two heads?’ when used to castigate a child only contributes to building low self-esteem. Mothers usually have powerful influence on their children and should mind what they say to them. Parents should always listen to the complaints of their children despite their busy schedules. Castigating a child contributes to building low self-esteem in a child,” he said.
On his growing-up years, Adiele recalled being a dull student but the positive words of his mother helped him to improve tremendously. He also admonished parents to always lend listening ears to their wards.
An expert in guidance and counselling, who wanted to be anonymous, urged teenagers to always talk to someone when in a sad mood. He also urged them to beware of the reputation of those they confide in so as not to make an already bad situation worse.
Mrs. Oluyelu Adetutu, a family wellness advocate, lamented that parents’ lackadaisical attitude towards their children has led to regrettable situations in several families.
She recounted the story of a young girl that was serially abused by her parent’s driver and gateman and was being threatened with death if she revealed their atrocities.
“The young girl tried to commit suicide in her school after trying severally to communicate her plight to her parents. She would have bled to death from the cut she inflicted on her wrist if not for the timely intervention of one of her teachers, who had been monitoring her, after noticing her depressive state.”
Adetutu maintained that children were assets and should be treated as such. She also advised parents not to totally leave their children in the care of strangers or relatives, as most of them could take advantage of such trust to molest the children left their care.
“Parents should build good relationships with their children. They should invest their time and love to the upbringing of their children, in order to build confidence and trust. This would boost confidence in children to intimate them with every good and bad situation in their lives,” she said.
Speaking after the lecture, 14-year-old Laura Gborjoh, said she enjoyed the sensitisation session organised by MASHI. She recalled being taunted by her classmates at a point because she was the tallest in her class and admitted feeling sad by their actions.
“When my classmates make jest of me because of my height, it makes me feel bad but not to the point of feeling depressed or wanting to commit suicide,” she said.