On May 14, a gospel artiste, Michael Arowosaiye, ended his life by suicide. The young man hanged himself with his belt at Sunnyvale Estate, Lokogoma District, Abuja.
It was gathered that the deceased was depressed over certain personal issues.
The number of Nigerians taking their own lives has assumed a frightening dimension of late.
Perturbed by this, some concerned Nigerians have advocated the need to address the high rate of unemployment and other economic challenges in the country. They have also urged government at various levels, religious institutions and corporate bodies to set up trauma centres for counselling, where people on the verge of ending their lives could find succour.
The story of Aisha Omolola, a 300 level student of Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria, Kaduna State, who took her life in her hostel after leaving a suicide note, has remained fresh with many Nigerians.
Before the incident on December 26, 2018, she had informed her friends of her depression. In her suicide note, the deceased blamed her parents for her action, saying they made life hellish for her.
The suicide note read in part: “If I am no more, please, hold my family, especially my mum and dad, responsible. I have tried to be the best I can be, stayed away from them just because they blamed me for their mistakes and they can’t love, help and take care of me like their own.
“My mum has made life a living hell for me because she is bipolar and frustrated, accusing me of being a witch, and a cursed child even though my brother is responsible for my education and upkeep.”
Also, in October 2018, a professor in the Biological Sciences Department of the Federal University of Agriculture, Makurdi, Benue State, killed himself after he had purportedly battled marital issues for a while.
In September 2018, an army staff sergeant attached to the 192 Battalion in Gwoza, Borno State, also embraced the suicide option for an undisclosed reason.
Tolulope Abodunrin, who worked in a bank and admitted on Twitter to have been plagued by thoughts of suicide for two years due to depression, promised to write a book about surviving the pains.
He wrote: “I contemplated ending my life several times. For over two years, I battled suicidal thoughts. But today I am thanking God for life.”
However, two months later, Abodunrin relapsed into depression and took his life on November 21, 2018.
A 49-year-old civil servant, Abolarinwa Olaoye, also hanged himself within the Ekiti State Secretariat, Ado Ekiti, in November 2018.
The body of the father of five, who was a night guard at the Ekiti State Scholarship Board, was found dangling from a clothing material tied to the railing of a building at the state Ministry of Education.
Olaoye, according to his co-workers, had lamented the financial problems he was facing and was fed up with life.
On January 2, a Lagos-based disc jockey, Seun Omogaji, popularly known as DJ XGee, also killed himself.
In the note he left behind, he simply bade his siblings and mother farewell and asked friends to wear white to his funeral instead of black.
His friends claimed that he had lamented the marital crisis he was facing and felt the best way to overcome the emotional trauma was to take his life by consuming some insecticide.
Adigun Emmanuel, 27, a final-year student of the Faculty of Agriculture, University of Ilorin, Kwara State, also committed suicide by ingesting a bottle of insecticide after he failed his final year project for the third time.
In a social media note before the deed, he indicated that he had been accused of plagiarising his current research work.
Another student, Hikmat Gbadamosi, a 100-level student in the Chemical Engineering Department of the University of Port Harcourt, Rivers State, had also been showing signs of depression and had opted to live in a private apartment away from the school campus. She barred her friends from visiting her.
She recorded a short video uploaded online in which she was crying and saying, “It worsens every time and I don’t know who to call.”
That was the last time anyone saw her alive.
Her swollen corpse was discovered in her room some days after some of her classmates went to check on her. She consumed Sniper, a potent insecticide.
In March, a lecturer in the Department of Urban and Regional Planning, Federal Polytechnic, Auchi, Edo State, Mr. Patrick Okojie, succeeded in cutting his life short after two failed attempts.
Also, on May 13, Chukwuemeka Akachi, a final-year student of the University of Nigeria, Nsukka, who was studying English and Literary Studies, took his life after stating the reason for his suicide in a poem he posted on Facebook.
He said in the note: “Forgive me. In case you are the one who finds the body. I am really sorry. It had to be someone, you know. I have chosen Jo Nketaih’s poem as my suicide note: ‘They said you came looking for me. I did not drown; I was the water.’ Where do atheists go to when they die? Lol. Amen.”
Akachi, who was reportedly a first class student, was said to have battled dementia for over two months and survived a previous suicide attempt, but he later succeeded by drinking poison.
The list appears endless even as pundits have said that unreported cases of suicide were far higher than the reported ones.
A consultant neuropsychiatrist and community physician with the Lagos University Teaching Hospital (LUTH), Oluseun Peter Ogunnubi, who said many factors could be responsible for people taking their own lives, disclosed that depression remained a common denominator. However, he advised that suicide should never be contemplated as an option to end unpleasant situations.
He said it was sad that, very often, many people neglected their mental health and shied away from accepting the reality that they needed a quick medical intervention even when there were obvious symptoms.
The consultant, who expressed worry at how people now kill themselves, spoke passionately on the need for sustainable advocacy on prevention and management of mental illness.
On the role of parents in averting looming dangers in their children’s mental health, the expert advised them to ensure that they develop intimacy with their wards right from their tender ages.
“For example, when you know that this particular child is always boisterous both in the school and in the house, but, all of a sudden the child doesn’t want to go to school. When he becomes defensive, defiant and withdrawn to his or herself, then you should know that something is wrong with the child.
“Adolescent depression will not come with the usual symptoms of low mood, weakness and the rest that are associated with adult depression. In the case of the young ones, they can begin to throw tantrums. Instead of judging them and becoming mad at the kids, this is the time a parent needs to begin to observe those strange behaviours. Generally, when there is a clear change in attitude, those close to the person need to seek help for him or her.”
Odunnubi said mental illness was just like hypertension, diabetes or any other ailment that should be treated by an expert or experts, as the case may be. He lamented that there was still very poor knowledge of mental health, which has resulted in many myths surrounding it. He said nobody was immune to mental challenges.
Said he: “When a part of the brain is affected, the behaviours, which that part of the brain modulates, are also affected. It is as simple as that. We have been advocating the need for people to seek help and talk to an expert about that situation and we will continue to do so. We are no longer in the Stone Age when people believed that mental illness was caused by witchcraft or some evil spirit, thereby subjecting the patient to all manner of physical torture.
“I once had a project manager who attempted suicide twice. Today, he is happily married with two sons and he lives in the United Kingdom. My old-time buddy, who is doing well in Lagos now, also once tried to kill himself.
“People discourage suicide because it has been found that at that lowest mood when one feels that all is lost, if any rash decision is taken, one might just miss a breakthrough, which is around the corner.
“Just as we have fever or headache as a sign of malaria and we use anti-malaria drugs, its the same way we have suicidal thinking as a sign of depression, a medical illness. Now, do you cut your head off each time you have headache? No; you use paracetamol at least. So, why kill yourself when you have a symptom of depression, which could be suicidal thinking?
“Seek help and get treated. In a few years’ time, when things become sweet again, you will ask yourself, why did I even think of suicide in the first place? Life can be so beautiful if we choose to make it so.”
Pundits have revealed that in every successful suicide case, there must have been 25 previous attempts by the individual.
Similarly, the World Health Organisation has advised that one of the strategies to stem more suicides is through responsible reporting of suicides by the media as well as care for people suffering from mental and substance use disorders, chronic pain and emotional distress.
There are submissions that insecurity is at its worst level and hard times are biting even harder in Nigeria. And there are studies to show that majority of Nigerians are more worried about their economic condition than at any period in the country’s history.
Linking all sorts of mental health challenges to the harsh economic condition in Nigeria, a general practitioner based in Lagos, Oludara Dayo, encouraged Nigerians to become more open as they grapple with their frustrations.
He stated that many suicide notes were filled with confessions that the victims were lonely and had no one to confide in.
He said people who suffer loss of job or several years of searching for a job without success, drug abuse and addiction, terminal illness, repeated failure in examinations, severe accidents, single parenting and traumatic experiences form the bulk of those with suicidal tendencies.
Experts have said that about 25 per cent of Nigerians suffer from one form of mental illness or the other, which makes the country have more mental cases than the population of every West African country.
Dayo warned against discriminating against people with mental challenges. He said it was unfortunate that many people still associate madness with mental challenge. He explained that mental disorders were characterised by a combination of abnormal thoughts, perceptions, emotions, behaviours and relationships with others.
There are also worries over the small number of psychiatrists in Nigeria despite having the largest number of mental cases in Africa. It is reported that three out of every five Nigerian psychiatrists leave the country after their education for greener pastures.
Nigeria can reportedly boast of only about 250 psychiatrists providing mental health care, no thanks to brain drain syndrome.
The Federal Government owns eight hospitals dedicated to psychiatry across the 36 states. They are sited in Enugu, Kaduna, Calabar, Maiduguri, Benin City, Kware-Sokoto, Yaba and Aro, Abeokuta. There are fewer than 10 state-owned psychiatric hospitals in the country.