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Minister of Health

The research organization in Nigeria, LUTH’s Suicide Research and Prevention Initiatives (LSRPI) conducted a study to ascertain the reasons behind the recent and frequent suicide in Lagos, Nigeria.

The organization from the mental health specialists disclosed that about 12% of adolescents in Nigeria have attempted suicide at some point in their lives and about 3% of Nigerians have had thoughts about ending their lives; 1% will plan on how to kill themselves and another 1% will attempt suicide.

The organization revealed that they examined cases of suicide from health institutions including the Lagos University Teaching Hospital, Idi-Araba, Lagos disclosed that about 0.32 per cent of adult military personnel in Nigeria have attempted suicide.

Dr. Raphael Ogbolu, Consultant Psychiatrist and Coordinator, LUTH’s Suicide Research and Prevention Initiative, gave a practical definition of what one can call suicide, he said that suicide as an act of taking one’s life,  noted that 7.2 per cent of the cases reported at the centre were related to suicide.

That “A research conducted in Nigeria by some of my colleagues estimated that about 0.37 per cent and 12 per cent of adult military and adolescent population respectively have attempted to kill themselves.

“As an expert who has seen and continues to see cases of suicide, I want to first clear the belief that the act is new to us in Nigeria. Suicide is not alien to Africa and Nigeria. If it were, the great literary icon, Chinua Achebe, would not have told us about Okonkwo committing suicide in his book, Things Fall Apart. In fact, the story captures a lot about what can happen to people today, when they see that their world has fallen apart.”

Also Dr. Adeoye Oyewole, Consultant Psychiatrist with the Department of Psychiatry, Ladoke Akintola University Teaching Hospital, Ogbomoso, Oyo State, further identified an increasing economic hardship, marital problems and inability to meet up with family and societal obligations as some of the challenges that have set individuals on the path of suicide.

That the majority of individuals who attempted suicide were not genetically prepared to withstand societal expectation from them such as ability to provide for their family, to pay their debt, feed their household, and provide basic life amenities and challenges of life, hence the need for parents and loved ones and co-workers to exercise more patience when dealing with such persons.

 Dr. Adeoye Oyewole said that “Not everybody has been genetically prepared to cope with the rigours of unpaid salaries, a failed marriage or troubled relationship. The African culture of not sharing interpersonal problems is a perfect template for suicide. This must change because we are not strictly western and we are no longer African. This transitioning must be recognised and well handled to avoid mental illnesses.”

 “Suicide is not sudden; the person must have been showing symptoms when they were young or after they went through a traumatic event. He /she can be sad unduly and lose interest in usual activities like eating or going to work. The individual will express feelings of hopelessness and worthlessness. We must have a high index of suspicion and treat it with the seriousness it deserves. It’s not the time to think of stigma, it’s a time to save lives.”

Dr. Raphael Ogbolu therefore stated that “When it comes to the issue of suicide, the general attitude of the public has been that of silence. This silence is because of the stigma associated with the act as well as the religious leanings which forbid it. Reactions to suicide include seeing the person as selfish, weak and so on.

“While these reactions may be understandable in the context of shock, it is unfair from the point of view of humanity. To judge a victim of suicide would amount to not understanding the concept of human frailty. As human beings we are both strong and weak.

“The only difference is in what it takes to bring out that weakness in us. When suicide occurs it is loud, yet silent, and so I feel it is imperative to ‘unsilence’ suicide, as you would a dormant gene, because speaking about it is more likely to yield positive results than keeping quiet about it.’’

The organization therefore pleaded with parents and families to come forward with relatives with symptoms indicative of depression as delays could lead to more grievous mental illnesses such as suicide.

That suicide is preventable with early medical intervention