BY YINKA FABOWALE and VINCENT KALU
The tragic incidents have been making the news lately, with worrisome frequency. Last month, a 48-year-old landlord hanged himself in Ibadan.
The deceased, Popoola Adepoju, was found in his apartment dangling from a rope tied to a ceiling fan, at Idi-Ose along Akan road in Ona Ara Council Area of the city
The father of three, who left a suicide note, reportedly sent his children on an errand before taking his own life.
The deceased’s wife, told the police that her husband was a former employee of the defunct National Electric Power Authority in Abeokuta, disengaged two years ago, but with his entitlement yet to be paid. Adepoju, according to her, had engaged himself in cement business on a small scale before his death.
A landlord in the area hinted that the deceased was going through a difficult period. He had reportedly wanted to sell his Honda car for N250,000 but only got a buyer who offered to pay only N150,000.
The neighbour said Adepoju had planned to buy a smaller car to be used as taxi to supplement what he made from the small cement trade, as a sustaining means of livelihood for his family adding: “He sometimes complained that things were no longer as they were before he was disengaged from work. It was a surprise when we discovered that this unfortunate incident had happened.”
Also, about a fortnight ago, a 66-year-old man, Mr. John Ekue, committed suicide in the Mende area of Maryland, Lagos State.
Ekue used a rope to hang himself by the rod of a ceiling fan in his apartment on Oki Lane around 8pm on the fateful day.
It was learnt that the victim, who worked as a driver for a paint company in Lagos State, killed himself over the failure of the company to pay his five-month salaries.
The victim was said to have been facing tough times since April 2016, when he stopped going to the company, whose name was not disclosed by his family members.
The deceased, who earned N30, 000 per month, reportedly became frustrated when feeding became difficult for him. His only son, identified simply as IK, a salesman, was said to have been supporting him with his meagre wages. IK had gone to buy food for the father when the incident happened, only to return to meet his father’s body dangling from a rope.
A neigbhour said: “He had been lonely since he stopped going to work. His only son, who should have been with him, had to run around to provide food for him. Aside that, his wife died about two years ago which really shook him.”
Penultimate week, a man jumped into the river on the Mile Two Bridge in Amuwo Odofin Local Government Area.
The unidentified man, according to eyewitnesses, stood on the bridge for some minutes, loudly expressed bitterness over his sufferings, how things had gone bad for him and his helplessness.
He was said to have mentioned Buhari repeatedly, muttered some other words before he finally took the plunge.
However, the timely intervention of passengers of a passing speedboat prevented him from drowning. They dived into the river and rescued him.
Also, recently in Anambra State, a diabetic was said to have committed suicide as he could no longer afford to buy medications to treat his condition, because he was owed salary as a civil servant.
Apart from these extreme cases of suicide, many people are dropping down with stroke and hypertension, while the streets have become scenes of spectacle of disturbed, angry and moody people, some of whom, although well dressed, are quick to pick a fight with others, or seen muttering to themselves while walking on the road. Sometimes, it takes the blaring of vehicle horns for them to regain their senses.
The fact is that more and more Nigerians are on the nerves and at their wits’ end, no thanks to the prevailing socio-economic situation in the country. Many, unable to cope with the stress, humiliation and stigma of loss of income and social status are taking “the easy way out”, resorting to desperate measures including suicide to free themselves from the burden of hardship and inability to provide for the needs of their families in these times of economic recession.
Stress, on its own, said the Medical Director of Belinda Hospital, Isasi, Ojo, Lagos, Dr. Jonathan Uwaoma, is healthy, as it makes a person to work better if it is mild. “t keeps him/her alert, makes his brain to release endomophines that make his blood to flow well. However, when it becomes prolonged and hard, it becomes damaging, as it puts a person’s brain under serious pressure resulting in headaches, migraines, difficulty in sleeping, loss of concentration and making him to be very irritable. That is why you see some people now get angry over small issues. Something that somebody could have overlooked could cause crisis due to the stress level,” he says.
Although, he cautions that only long term epidemiological study and data can confirm speculated rise in the incidence of suicide, depression, schizophrenia and other stress disorders manifesting and/or establish their connection with the current economic depression, a leading psychiatrist and former Chief Medical Director of the Federal Neuro-psychiatric Hospital, Yaba, Lagos, Dr. Oladunjoye Malomo, says the prevailing adverse socio-economic situation, has, no doubt, provided a trigger for them in those predisposed to, or unable to cope with or manage stress.
He remarks that there are various factors that can lead to stress, including loss of job, a loved one, financial distress, strained (marital) relationships, unemployment, cognitive inflexibility, physical illness, unstable personality, among other unpleasant situations.
According to him, stress disorders can, if care is not taken, progress to mild and moderate depression, or even severe ones, inducing the victim to nurse suicidal thoughts. “Some may take to alcohol abuse because of going through difficult times and it can be worse, where others develop depression or schizophrenia”, Dr. Malomo says.
The foremost psychiatry expert says: “There is no doubt that if there is recession as we have it now, it’s going to put pressure on people. But our people are adaptable and coping, but there could be a minority, who are unable to cope, especially if retrenched in organized job sector, or can’t pay rent or manage some personal problems.
Corroborating him, Uwaoma says: “People who are already at the edge of life – for whom things are not working, tend to see problems as bigger and something they would not get away from, thus inducing the stress level to mount. “
Although in the light of lack of data and empirical study, he says, it is difficult to make a scientifically valid postulation on perceived increase and preponderance of stress disorders, Malomo agrees that the number of cases, including those that resulted in suicide may really be on the high, as many do not get reported at all.
He says the excruciating pains and trauma of passing through traffic jam or even financial pressure can depress some people or make them flare up in anger, even to the point of becoming violent. “It can lead to conflict, and when it gets to that, especially in the home, it can lead to marital breakup,” he adds.
Dr. Malomo says a stress victim will normally exhibit the following symptoms: Hopelessness, fatigue, lack of sleep, frustration or complaint of being fed up with life, or lacking interest in what hitherto afforded him pleasure, or also being withdrawn. “Sometimes, they can be weepy and can voice out suicidal thoughts, of no longer enjoying living. Now, people often ask such persons not to say that. But, it is better to let them say it. It has a releasing effect and it serves as a guide into their mind, so that precaution can be taken,” says the former FNPH boss.
Besides psychic and psychological issues, however, stress, Dr. Uwaoma says, has tremendous effect on physical health. “If you don’t manage your stress well you become hypertensive, which can lead to stroke. If you don’t manage your stress well, you become unnecessarily angry. Most patients who have psychosomatic problems like asthma and the rest, because they are not happy, have more frequent attacks,” he notes, adding: “People are sick; they are frustrated, they are on edge because of rebound effect of stress caused by the economy. People are having stroke more now than before. You see somebody in his 30s having cardiac arrest or stroke. That age advantage of being younger has been lost because of too much stress.
To avoid falling into the terrible loop, Dr. Malomo advised Nigerians to have a flexible and tolerant attitude towards themselves, environment and life. His words: “People need to be flexible in their approach to life. They need to know that difficult times don’t last forever. There is need to have hope. The thing to do when faced with difficult times is, count your blessings. In the case of those without income or who just lost their means of livelihood is to know that Nigeria is still blessed with resources and that there are lots of opportunities. Even though, there are problems in some areas, there are opportunities in others which are waiting to be tapped.
At the work place, he says the role of the Human Resource Manager (HRM) is crucial to preventing staffers from snapping up. “The human resource is key in any industry. If the personnel’s health is impaired it affects the productivity and realization of the goal of the organization. So, the HRM needs to monitor people coming late, making frequent mistakes, abandoning work and so on. These are tell tale signs of imminent trouble and the way to help is to quickly step in and try to find out what is happening to the worker. It’s not every infraction that you need to apply the punitive measure to.
At the sign of being under stress, Malomo advises a patient to see a doctor immediately. He says such doctor need not be specialists, who are few in number and not easily available. Ultimately, there may be need to consult the professional to manage complications.
He also emphasises the need for improved communication and social support mechanism for such patients. «Here the spouse, family, church members or co-worshipper in the mosque and even co-workers have a job to do. They need to constantly reassure the patient and give reason to see beyond the problem. It›s important not to shut them up when they express their fears or feelings. Let them talk, but be able to give them options…that it›s not the end of the world, that there are greener pasture elsewhere etc.»
Dr. Malomo advises employers and government to devise measures whereby people who lose their jobs can easily find alternative, so as to easily assuage the feeling of hopelessness that causes stress and depression.
Also giving practical tips to avoid getting stressed, Uwaoma emphasises adequate and timely diet as essential. His words: “Most people these days don’t eat breakfast anymore, they want to skip breakfast so that by the time they eat in the afternoon that would sustain them for the whole day. The moment you miss breakfast, the energy level fluctuates. Once the energy level goes too low before you eat your brain won’t perform optimally, because there must be a steady supply of energy throughout the whole day for your brain to function normally… You see somebody wakes up in the morning, he is so tired as if he was beaten all through the night; you start wondering what is wrong with the person. It is an overload of stress factor. So, don’t miss your breakfast, because that gives you the energy you need and makes your brain functions better. Research shows that people who eat breakfast live longer than those who don’t. Again cut down on caffeine. Most people take consolation when they are hungry and there is no food they go and buy cigarette and smoke. It gives a temporary sense of well-being because of the caffeine level that would rise, but you are causing more harm than good.”
Dr Uwaoma, says one of the social ways of avoiding stress is learning how to say no. He notes: “Most people bring stress upon themselves by trying to make others happy. For example, you have an interview by 8am, and by 7.30am, your neighbour implores you to help hold her baby that she wanted to just buy something across the road, and you carry the newborn baby and she didn’t comeback until 8.30am. Before she comes you are already foaming from the mouth, you have lost the interview; the opportunity and you can’t throw away the baby. The moment you learn when to say no, you start cutting down your stress level. So learn when to say no, it doesn’t matter what the cost may be.”
He also recommends regular exercise and practice of deep breathing as helpful. His words: “Take out sometime even if it is five or ten minutes relax and take a deep breath and hold it for sometimes and take your mind off everything. Take enough oxygen to reduce the free radicals that are in the blood. The Bible says a happy heart works as good as medicine. Most people are not happy, but, whatever effort anybody will put to make himself happy, it is worth it. Don’t bottle up your worries and avoid short fixes because by the time it rebounds, it affects you. An example is, if you owe somebody and the pressure is so much that you go and borrow money from a finance house to pay him, so that he may not know that things are not working out well for you. So, by the time the loan with the interest from the finance house matures, you are already a living corpse. This issue of free loans from various finance houses has become traps for people, which you should avoid.”