Olabisi, a mother of three, was disturbed when she noticed a change in Tobi, her son in SSS3. Tobi on returning from school for the yuletide holiday suddenly developed a reclusive attitude contrary to his usual sociable lifestyle.
Tobi’s mother did not pay much attention to her son’s new behaviour until the night she refused to release a phone sent from the UK by her husband to Tobi.
Just a few minutes after a heated argument with his mother, Tobi was found rolling on the floor of his room with blood streaming out through his mouth. He took some substances to induce death. Olabisi was confused about what could have triggered such an act from her son.
That is one of the cases of suicide attempts now rampant with many Nigerian students these days.
Joseph Olona, a 300-level student of the Department of Industrial Design at the Federal University of Technology, Akure, (FUTA) was reported to have committed suicide on Saturday, January 21, 2023.
Olona hanged himself in his off-campus lodge after he reportedly became depressed over issues relating to finances.
Similarly, Ebuka Joshua, a 300-level student of Business Administration at Nnamdi Azikiwe University in 2022 was also reported to have committed suicide after ingesting poison.
In October of the same year Ugwoke Jerry, a young graduate committed suicide in Nsukka, Enugu State for a reason not known.
Earlier in that very same year, the Abia State police command confirmed the death of Modestus Egbulefu, a 500-level student of the Michael Okpara University of Agriculture, Umudike, who committed suicide.
For the past six years, the rate of suicide incidences among young Nigerian students has been on the rise. The statistics are worrisome and shocking.
The awkward ways and manners in which this act happens is so bizarre that many of the culprits would announce their intentions on Facebook, Whatsapp, and Instagram, or drop notes before committing the act.
World Health Organization (WHO) in 2019 listed Nigeria among the low and middle-income countries that accounted for over 77 percent of suicide incidences across the globe.
According to WHO, Nigeria has the highest rate of suicide in Africa and sixth in the world with over 17, 000 lives lost to suicide.
This pandemic cuts across the regions of the country and the cause of this evil act ranges from failed relationships and parental neglect to mistrust among friends and acquaintances.
In 2019, Olaitan Gbadamosi, an 18-year-old first-year student in the department of Chemical Engineering of the University of Port Harcourt in Rivers State committed suicide two weeks after her matriculation.
Uzaka Ebiweni, a 300-level student of Medicine and Surgery at the Faculty of Basic Medical Sciences of the Niger Delta University (NDU), Ammasoma in Southern Ijaw Local Government Area of Bayelsa State committed suicide for failing his examination.
Ebiweni was said to have dived into Amassoma River and drowned before help came after realising that he was among the 22 students on the list to be withdrawn from the college for failing the Bachelor of Medicine examinations beyond the level that they could be placed on academic probation for another academic year.
Also in the unenviable list is Samuel Iyanuohere Felabita from Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria in Kaduna State, Aisha Omolola another student from Ahmadu Bello University, and Chukwuemeka Akachi from the University of Nigeria, Nsukka in Enugu State, among others.
Ufuoma Lauretta, a psychologist told BusinessDay that suicide does not have one specific reason. According to her, there are various reasons why it may happen.
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“The strongest link to suicide is depression. Depression can be so overwhelming that ending one’s life looks like the only viable option,” she said
“A person who feels like he is in a position he cannot escape from will also consider suicide. People owing a huge amount of money, people being accused of a crime they didn’t commit, etc.
“Life events can also trigger suicidal thoughts and actions. For instance, losing one’s job, long-standing unemployment, divorce or heartbreak in one’s relationship, loss of a loved one, and failing a major examination, among others.
“These events tend to trigger depression and may eventually lead to suicide. Students are not exempt from any of these life events or situations that may prompt them to commit suicide. They also deal with financial struggles, heartbreak, and the loss of special people in their lives.”
Ramisi Lasisi, a sociologist and senior lecturer at Federal University Otuoke in Bayelsa State said many social factors can be responsible for the ugly development such as losing social support.
“Students who feel they are not doing well in school and do not have any social network to lean on may feel excluded from the successes or life and could find suicide as a way out,” he said.
Lasisi further revealed that there are four cardinal social drivers of suicide according to Emile Durkheim’s postulations, which are egoistic, altruistic, anomic, and fatalistic.
The sociologist said that among students, egoistic suicide and/or anomic suicide are more rampant.
“Egoistic suicide amongst students can be defined in the context of students losing social support and having no hope from any social network, especially in a country where anomie (lawlessness) now prevails,” he added.
How to curb the incidences of suicide among students, the university don said that there is a guardian and family dimension to it.
“People who have familial ties with students should as much as possible stick with them whether they are performing or not.
Some parents and guardians would go to the extent of emotionally bullying their children just because they are not doing well in their studies. This is not good.
“Similarly, institutional support is critical, especially the guidance and counseling departments. Students’ psycho-emotional assessment periodically is a necessary intervention for this problem,” he noted.
Moreover, Lasisi said the other way out of this, is for the government to ensure that students have access to funding either in grants or loan forms to reduce hardship on them.
According to Durkheim, a renowned sociologist, suicide can be as a result not only of psychological or emotional factors but of social factors as well. He reasoned that social integration, in particular, is a factor.
“The more socially integrated a person is, that is, the more he or she is connected to society, possessing a feeling of general belonging and a sense that life makes sense within the social context, the less likely he or she is to commit suicide. As social integration decreases, people are more likely to commit suicide.”
The WHO report reveals that about one million death recorded every year comes from suicide, and for every death by suicide 20 to 25 more people have attempted it.
The Suicide Research and Prevention Initiative (SURPIN) in Nigeria revealed that one in every five suicide cases in the country is aged 13 to 19 years, and that over 50 percent of crisis calls received via its hotlines are from those aged 13 to 29 years, and that 27.8 percent of them were students.
Experts believe that many suicides happen impulsively in moments of crisis with a breakdown in the ability to deal with life challenges such as relationship breakdown, terminal illness, and financial problems among others.
Besides, suicide rates are also high among vulnerable people who are exposed to discrimination such as migrants, displaced citizens, transgender, intersex persons, and prisoners.
However, a study has proven that the strongest risk factor for suicide is a previous suicide attempt. It is believed that about 20 percent of global suicides are due to pesticides (snipers, ota pia-pia) self-poisoning and that most of these incidents occur in rural areas, and mid-income cities.
Another common approach to suicide is by hanging or taking an overdose of drugs. It is also believed that suicide could be prevented. Experts revealed that one of the ways to prevent suicide is by close monitoring of a depressed person.
This, they said would reduce access to the means of suicide, including pesticides, firearms, and drugs, among others.
The University of Lagos Teaching Hospital (LUTH) some years ago established the suicide research and prevention initiative and staff emotional care services (SURPIN/SECS) in response to the increasing spate of suicide in the country.