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NigeriaDecides2023

The anatomy of suicide 2: Causes, methods and other indicators

Last week, I concluded with an excerpt from the paper I presented in 2019, in which, out of a sample of 10, 90 percent were students, 50 percent were due to project/result issues while 40 percent were due to ‘failed romance.’ It ended with ‘Suicide is NOT an Option.’

This week, I want to share the outcome of a more extensive investigation that lasted 3 years. (2019 – 2022), involving a sample of 217 but this will start with some preliminary remarks.

The data was sourced from the media and some of the reports did not contain all the variables of interest (causes, methods, age). Thus, the total for the various elements vary and that is why I limited myself to percentages.

When people who spent their lives advising suicidal people and mapping out strategies to minimise suicide, or preaching that lives were sacred, resort to suicide, it becomes obvious that suicide is a mysterious affair

Secondly, some of the classifications are not sacrosanct. For instance, among the ‘causes’ are depression/frustration, academic challenges and marital/domestic issues. It is obvious that depression and/or frustration, could have been caused by some of the other variables like academic or marital issues.

Thirdly, I obtained a ‘bulk figure’ from Nepal, where 842 people committed suicide within a space of 2 months (March -May 2020) at the height of Covid-19 invasion and consequential lockdown. I decided to treat it separately because it will overwhelm the rest of the data.

Furthermore, it provided information on just one of the variables: methods of suicide. In the Nepal case, 742 of the people hanged themselves; 114 resorted to poison while 19 resorted to other methods. The causes were not given but these may be attributed to the socio-economic and psychological consequences of Covid-19.

Coming to the sample of 217, which I obtained from all over the world but mostly from Nigeria, the variables of interest were gender, age, causes and methods of suicide and these are presented and analysed hereunder.

There were more males (62%) than females (38%) and in terms of age, most of them were aged between 30 and 50 (33%), followed by those between 20 and 30 (27%). Students constituted 19 percent of the sample while those aged below 20 made up 17 percent. Six of them (figure) were little children below 10! 6 percent of the sample were aged above 50, with two of them aged 82 and 85.

The causes were categorised into six with ‘failed romance’ (jilting by spouses or partners) as the highest (22%); frustration/depression, 19 percent; and marital/domestic issues caused 17 percent. People who were ashamed or could not stand the consequences of their action were 12 percent. Among these, some committed suicide in detention while some did so before they were caught.

Academic challenges were responsible for 6.5 percent while the rest grouped as ‘others’ were 23 percent. Hanging, the ancient method of suicide, won the gold medal (35%) quickly followed by snipper et al (32%).

If we had limited it to Nigeria and the youths in particular, snipper et al would have won by a distant margin. Some people still relied on the gun (18%) while others relied on methods like stabbing, drowning, jumping down from high-rise buildings (14.6%). Thus most of those who committed suicide were males (62%); aged below 30, and these included students (63%), did so mostly by hanging and poisoning (67%) and were mostly caused by frustration, failed romance and domestic squabbles (58%).

The male dominance is apparently a universal affair. In 2020 75.1 percent of all the suicides in the UK, almost the same with 2018 figure of 75 percent. The male-suicide fell from 17.2 percent in 2018 to 15.4 percent in 2020.

In the US, the males constituted 78.7 percent of all suicides for the 20 years between 2000 and 2020! In our environment, we blame the outrageous societal expectations and pressures on men, including the ‘be a man’ paradigm. Does this also apply to the developed world?

However, statistics at times hide more than it reveals. Going through all these cases, there were certain peculiar, strange, surprising and emerging phenomena. The strangest were the case of Gregory Elles, executive director, Counselling and Psychological Services at the University of Pennsylvania, who committed suicide on the 2019 World Suicide Prevention Day (10/9/19); Pastor Wilson who committed suicide immediately after burying a suicide victim; and Fr Harkins of St James Parish, Kansas. When people who spent their lives advising suicidal people and mapping out strategies to minimise suicide, or preaching that lives were sacred, resort to suicide, it becomes obvious that suicide is a mysterious affair.

Read also: The anatomy of suicide!

Some of the cases looked so unbelievable like three young persons who committed suicide because one was scolded, another lost the battle for Remote Control’ to the sister while the third killed himself because the mother could not give him N700 now-now (she asked him to wait till the following day).

There are increasing cases of murder-suicide, those who kill others before committing suicide and people who commit suicide so as to punish others.

There was this small girl aged 11 who committed suicide on her mother’s birthday because the mother always told her that she was a source of sorrow for her! So, she committed suicide as a birthday present to the mother; to ‘make her happy.’ When people kill themselves to punish or get even with others, it amounts to the Weaponization of suicide!

It is also surprising that despite the various convenient methods of committing suicide, people still resort to crude, painful methods like hanging and stabbing. The most bizarre case was that of Chigozie, a Port Harcourt-based young man who ripped open his stomach and removed his intestines.

This happened in June 2022, and I shudder at the kind of pains he suffered in his last minutes and what led him to choose this method of suicide. It is obvious that the rich also cry as in the cases of Volker Bouffier, a German minister, Alvaro, son of former Mexican president, and Hilary, a generous lady who had facilitated 200,000 surgeries across the globe.

The ‘suicide industry’ is also afflicted by the scourge of fake news. The allegation that Mr & Mrs Odipo, a Kenyan couple committed suicide over $78,000 wedding debt, was discovered to be fake.

The believable story even included a suicide note, which blamed the wedding guests and relatives for their miserly gifts. There was also the case of this fellow, Mr Galva, an Indian, who could not get himself to commit suicide but rather commissioned someone else to do it for him.

I don’t know whether the ‘contractor’ has been able to extricate himself from the law. There was the case of Alex Murdaugh who hired somebody to kill him so that his son could cash the $10 insurance claims. Anyway, this particular case failed and I wonder whether this was love for the son or criminality or being smart by half.

We shall round off this morbid discourse next week but remember, Suicide is NOT an Option!

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