The recent deaths of a student at the University of Nigeria Nsukka, a don at Kwara State University and a 300-Level student of the Abubakar Tafawa Balewa University, Bauchi, through suicide have raised worry at the rate with which many Nigerians are now taking their own lives.
Chukwuemeka Akachi, a 400-level student of the Department of English and Literary Studies, University of Nigeria, Nsukka, (UNN) took his own life recently, leaving behind a scholarly suicide note, which many say depicted the character of his academic status.
It was gathered that the deceased carried out the suicide in the solitude of an uncompleted building located at Sullivan Road on the Nsukka campus of the institution, where he allegedly slipped into coma after taking two bottles of ‘Sniper’ an insecticide.
From jumping into the lagoon to hanging self with rope or drinking poison, reports on suicide have moved from an occasional blip to a very disturbing trend in Nigeria.
According to recent World Health Organisation (WHO) suicide ranking, with 15.1 suicides per 100,000 population in a year, Nigeria is now the 30th most suicide-prone (out of 183 nations) in the world and the 10th in Africa.
While that should worry the authorities and critical stakeholders, there are many theories as to why these Nigerians take their own lives and they are traceable mostly to the enormous emotional and financial stress, as well as pervading poverty and hopelessness in the land.
The Catholic Archbishop of Abuja, Cardinal John Onaiyekan in a recent interview with Sunday Sun attributed the increasing suicide rate to the lack of hope among Nigerians.
“Suicide is a sign of being disgusted with life and that life does not matter anymore, so people kill themselves, Suicide happens not only when we have poverty like we have in Nigeria, some people in the rich countries also commit suicide, because they do not see any meaning to life, but in our tradition, suicide is an abomination,” the cleric said.
Medical practitioners under the aegis of the Society of Family Physicians of Nigeria, (SOFPON) have also raised concerns about the growing number of Nigerians living with depression.
According to a SOFPON official, Dr. Blessing Chukwukwelu, in Nigeria, “only one-fifth of those with a depressive episode receive any treatment, and only one in 50 receives treatment that is minimally adequate.”
She recommended that medical practitioners who see various cases of ailment at the Primary Health Centres should be trained on how to identify the symptoms of depression.
Indeed, Chinny Linda, 26, had attempted to take her own life severally due to depression. But she was lucky to have survived each of the attempts.
She told Sunday Sun recently that, “there were several times I considered suicide as an option in the past. How I overcame these tough situations still remain a puzzle to me till now. I think it was really God’s doing because most times I feel like I should just end it.The urge kept saying do it, do it. But there was this second thought that discourages me each time.”
Chronicling the various moments she had attempted suicide in the past, she said: “The first time was when I was much younger, I was a teenager then, so I was being given a kind of treatment that made me wondered if my parents are the ones who really gave birth to me. My parents used to get angry at me easily, shout at me and talk to me the way they don’t talk to my elder sister and my younger ones.They always made me feel that I am inferior and as always showed this impression that I am the worst child they have ever had, so I will ask myself: Is it that I was adopted into this family or is it that I have a father or mother somewhere else? I had so many thoughts going through my head, so it got to the extent that I started crying everyday. So, I felt depressed, and frustrated. There was a day I took JIK or Hypo then when I was much younger. I wanted to drink it, I held it in my hand. But I couldn’t muster enough courage to do that, so I had to drop it.
“The other occasion, I could remember I was beaten and I cried bitterly. So, in the night when everyone was asleep, I went to the kitchen to where we keep our cutleries, picked one of the knives there, and wanted to stab myself. But each time I tried stabbing myself, the knife wouldn’t want to penetrate. I hated my life, but the thought of dying was also scary, so I had to let go.
“Another occasion when I was depressed and attempted suicide was when I was jilted by someone I was in a committed relationship with. Before the incident, we had been into a dedicated relationship for about two years. After all that, I was disappointed, so I started asking why? Why is it that I don’t get anything I want at due time? God why this and why that? So, I was really depressed. For a whole year, I wasn’t myself. There was a time I took Dettol, I wanted to drink it, I already opened it, but the smell discouraged me. So, I found out that anytime I want to injure myself, or do anything bad to myself, people that I don’t expect would just call me. Some will even come to my door step. So, I discovered that suicide wasn’t the right option at all. And now, here I am today, I cannot try that again.”
Like Linda, Okafor Ngozi has been battling with suicidal thoughts since her childhood. While she is lucky not to have taken her own life, the future still looks foggy. Nevertheless,Ngozi, who suffers mental health disorder, is clinging to hope.
She told Sunday Sun:“At first, I didn’t know I had mental health disorder. When I kept on panicking, having panic attacks, distancing myself from human beings and thinking about death in secondary school, I didn’t know it was a mental illness. I don’t know they had a name for it. So, when I entered the university, I resolved to fit in, to change, to ignore my mind and be like the other girls. So, I even tried to ‘change’, to be normal. I even tried making up, bought a whole lot of make-up kits. I loved a particular red lipstick I used to wear back then.
“But it didn’t stop. I kept on feeling out of place, like I am not meant to be here. I hated myself(still do) and hated everything and everyone around me. I didn’t want to be here (still don’t want to). In my second year ending, I gave up. I gave up trying to be normal. I embraced this ‘madness’ and darkness. I was tired of coming to class, smiling and trying to fit in as if all is good with me. I quit making up. I stopped coming to class. I don’t know how I made enough grades that helped me pass those stages. Third year was worse.I would stay indoors crying. I didn’t want to do anything. Everything was bleak. Everything still is bleak and purposeless. Die. Die. Die, the voice in my head would whisper.
“Unless, you’ve been there, you won’t understand. People think it’s made up or something you do to get attention, but it’s not.It was a friend who told me one day: “you’re depressed”. I didn’t know what that word meant. So, I looked it up. Turns out I wasn’t alone. And what I am feeling like had a name and is actually an illness.”
For Chiemela Chike, growing up as a young girl was not a smooth ride. From societal rejection to low self-esteem, among others, she is one of those who once considered suicide as an option, but through friends, books and divine intervention, she was able to weather the storm.
She told Sunday Sun: “For some weeks now, we have been hearing repeated stories of depressed people committing suicide. Some people don’t know how to react to this because they don’t how depression and the longing to end it creeps in. I was once depressed and I know how I felt. As a young person, I got bashed for many things that weren’t under my control. I got body shamed and laughed at. My peers called me all sorts of names for being on the small side. They said I was flat letter ‘I’. They made fun of me and it killed my self-esteem. I suffered from self-rejection and I was a victim of societal comparison.
“Growing up as a female wasn’t easy for me. During my early teen years, I was constantly tormented with negative thoughts that made me feel unworthy and imperfect. Happiness or joy was a shallow experience for me. I was constantly, overwhelmed with grieve that came from past and current experiences. I was in a constant flashback and flashforward, comparing every bit of data that came to my mind. To me, my future was bleak. That idea broke me even more and thrust me deeper into the blue embrace of depression.
“It was tough, I hated being female because of what people said about me.In my lone moments, I felt the emptiness within me and ached to be free. Really, there were nights I spent weeping for reasons I can’t even tell. It seems as though my mind was constantly afflicted by gloomy thoughts. Guess what? They were all wrong. When I think about how much of my joy was stolen from my early teen years, I get angry for letting that happen. But what could I have done? I was an unprepared child for a world so cruel. Now, many young people can’t deal with the measure of societal pressures coming on them and so they take the coward’s option (suicide) and end it.”
Cases of suicide are not new in Nigeria. However, that they have become more frequent that then before have continued to generate concerns. On Monday, May 13, 2019, a 400-level student of English and Literary Studies (ELS) at the University of Nigeria, Nsukka in Enugu State, Chukwuemeka Akachi reportedly committed suicide after years of battling with mental health disorder. An electronic suicide note left on his Facebook page, obtained by Sunday Sun, read: “My mental health has been on life support for a while now. Thanks for those who call, text, visit, speak to me. May we always remember. May we never forget. You may have added a few hours, months or days to my time here. But you know life support is expensive right? Thanks for trying. Amen.” In another note tagged “Suicide note,” on his page, he said: “Forgive me. In case you are the one who found 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 didn’t drown; I was the water…”.
Akachi’s death generated lots of controversies, especially on social media, but the dusts ignited by his demise were yet to die down when an alleged Pastor with the Redeemed Christian Church of God (RCCG), one Mr. Michael Arowosaiye, reportedly committed suicide on May 14, 2019; after struggling to foot his house rent.
Within the same time frame, a 300-level medical student of the Niger Delta University, Ammasoma in the Southern Ijaw Local Government of Bayelsa State, identified as Uzakah Ebiweni, reportedly committed suicide for failing his examination.
Commenting on the growing rate of suicide in Nigeria, a clergy with the Redeemed Christian Church of God, Mr. Emmanuel Idowu, stressed the need to start tackling suicide with prayers and divine intervention.
“From most prospective, everyone will tell you suicide is caused by depression, frustration, discouragement, among others. But there are situations that you cannot help yourself.That is where divine intervention comes in.”
While experts say it’s high time persons on authorities began to deal with this problem, they say underlying mental disorders such as schizophrenia, excessive alcoholism, drug abusive play significant role in triggering suicidal thoughts. Schizophrenia is a disease with a wide range of weird symptoms like hallucinations, inner voices, disordered thinking and irrational fears and emotions that seem out of tune with reality.
Using himself to buttress his point, Mr Idowu said: “When I finished Secondary School, I was the Senior Prefect boy. After I finished, I couldn’t make my O’ Level immediately because of either English and Mathematics. After that, I had to stay for years, as brilliant as I was then before I cleared my papers and get admission. If I didn’t have Jesus as my Lord and Saviour, I would have been discouraged too. In fact, at a point I resigned to fate that I am not going to higher institution again. But when I had an encounter with Jesus, he showed me a scripture in my dream, and I went to that place. In fact, the JAMB that got me admission, I heard a voice that you are just reading, you cannot pass.
“Although many people will not want to agree that suicide from a religious angle, but I want you to know that we live in an evil world that is full of wickedness, woes and sorrows. There was a case of a brother in abroad who was driven back to Nigeria and settled in one remote village and the brother was constructing traps, and as he was constructing traps for animals, he left many awed by the fluency of his English. So, some people began to inquire what can such a brilliant person be doing here? Then they began to pray, later it was discovered that some wicked people had turned his star. It was revealed that he was supposed to be making cars, and not the traps. So, we need God to help us dissolve bad thoughts which often lead to depression and then suicide.”
On her part, Ngozi, who is a friend to the late Akachi believes that the society is not helping those undergoing depression, noting that the stigma and bashing that often come with such make it difficult for people nursing suicidal thoughts to open up to those around them, including family members.