Nigeria witnesses suicide cases that never get reported. These unreported cases are a major impediment against getting accurate figures of the nation’s contribution to the over 800,000 people who die yearly through suicide, according to statistics from the World Health Organisation (WHO).
In the past several weeks, many suicides have been reported in the country. But as grim as the figures from Nigeria seem, there is a silent initiative to stem the tide of suicide in the country.
Suicide Research Prevention and Initiative (SURPIN) is a programme designed not only to address the underlying factors of suicide but also to prevent people from resorting to suicide as an escape route from depression.
Two years after the launch of the initiative, no fewer than 150 people who probably would have resorted to taking their own lives had sought and got help from SURPIN.
Dr. Raphael Ogboli, coordinator of SURPIN, said: “As at February 2019, we have received close to 150 calls. And half of these calls are people who are in crisis and half were from young adults.”
And as worrisome as suicide is, globally, its prevalence among young people in Nigeria is an additional reason for concern over this unwholesome development in the country. Speaking on the frequency of suicide among youths, Ogboli noted that: “It should be a thing of concern for everyone that young Nigerians are ending their own lives and most of these crises calls are from students as well. We realised that there is a need for more concerted efforts at trying to address the issue of suicide among youths, starting from the schools. Our activities in the past two years have been school activities; in primary schools, secondary schools and tertiary institutions,” he stated.
Ogboli said his group was not unmindful of the powerful role of religion in the life of an average African. This reality underscored the decision by the body to enlist the support of religious leaders in the country.
He said: “We realised that typically among Africans, especially Nigerians, before people get to the hospitals; they would have gone round different places, including seeking religious and spiritual treatment. So, one of the first things we noted was that religious leaders could not be left out of this fight to reduce suicides. We organised two major workshops for leaders, both Christian and Islamic clerics, in Lagos and Ile-Ife and the turnout was quite encouraging.
“What we did was to train them on how to identify suicide risk and how to identify depression. Of all the contributors to suicide risk, depression is the largest. If you can curb depression, it goes a long way to curb suicide. We engaged them and it has been a fruitful relationship. A number of these trained religious leaders have also been able to lead people that they see in service to the hospital,” he said.
In recognition of the vital role of the media in society, SURPIN also engaged the media in a workshop last year, where the issue of reporting on suicide was addressed.
“Globally, it has been recognised that how you report suicide can either protect people who are at risk or encourage people who are at risk to attempt suicide. We had a workshop with the press on how to appropriately report suicide. All of these we did with a ‘One More Day’ campaign, which was launched on March 23, 2017, and ran until March 23, this year.
“So, it has elapsed. The next phase of the campaign is what we call ‘Another Day.’ In ‘One More Day,’ the hall mark was our hotlines. This will run from March 2019 to 2021. The aim is to get people who are at that point where they think there was no hope to get them to live for one more day for starters. Then one more day becomes another day and through that we are able to keep them alive,” Ogboli said.