In the past two years, Nigeria has witnessed a disturbing trend of suicides among students, with cases continuing to emerge that shed light on the deepening mental health crisis among the youth.
A series of tragic incidents have highlighted the complex web of factors driving young individuals to take their own lives.
From the heart of Nigeria’s universities to the streets of its cities, stories of despair and tragedy have captured the nation’s attention.
Headlines such as “Teen Takes Own Life Due to Father’s Torment” and “University Student’s Suicide Stems from Financial Woes” have become alarmingly common. The situation has reached a point where concerns are being raised about the underlying societal issues fueling this disturbing phenomenon.
One particularly poignant case was that of Samuel Adekoya, a second-year National Diploma student at the Federal Polytechnic Ilaro, Ogun State. He ended his life by ingesting a toxic substance after losing both his own, and a friend’s school fees in an online gambling bet. This tragedy unfolded just as his classmates were gearing up for their semester exams.
The rising suicides are occurring against the backdrop of a struggling economy in Nigeria. Unemployment rates are high, GDP per capita is declining, and inflation is on the rise. These economic challenges create immense stress and depression, particularly when individuals lack a robust social support system to help them navigate tough times.
Dr. Ifeanyi Uchenna, a mental health expert, remarks, “The rise in suicides is linked to the economic crisis and depression that Nigerians experience daily. This is especially true when they don’t have a social support system in place to help them through hard times.”
Depression, often a precursor to these tragic incidents, is a complex mood disorder that goes beyond mere sadness.
“Depression can be so overwhelming that ending one’s life looks like the only viable option,” says Ufuoma Lauretta, a psychologist.
Factors such as failed relationships, financial burdens, academic pressure, and other life events can trigger a downward spiral into this abyss of despair.
Furthermore, the stories of individuals, like the female student from Obafemi Awolowo University and the socialite Farida Abdulkabir, underscore the complex interplay of factors that lead people to contemplate suicide.
Frustrations, failed relationships, societal pressures, and unresolved grief all contribute to a dark narrative that we must urgently address. The emergence of suicide as a grim option among Nigerian youths reflects not only individual struggles but also systemic challenges within society.
Titilayo Tade, deputy director of Lagos University Teaching Hospital, points out that the suicide rate in Nigeria was 6.9 per 100,000 people in 2019. This rate has since increased, with the World Health Organisation (WHO) estimating 9.5 suicides per 100,000 people in the country. However, due to underreporting, the actual figures might be even higher. Nigeria now holds the unfortunate distinction of having the highest suicide rate in Africa.
These stories of desperation manifest in chilling ways. In various instances, individuals have hanged themselves, ingested poisonous substances, jumped from heights, or even set themselves ablaze. The narratives are diverse, yet the common thread is the overwhelming sense of hopelessness that drives them to such drastic measures.
However, amid this somber reality, there is a glimmer of hope. Professionals and experts point to the importance of early intervention, psychological support, and open dialogue to counter the rise of suicide rates.Depression and unresolved grief are identified as significant triggers for suicidal thoughts, emphasising the critical role of mental health services in addressing this crisis.
To address the multifaceted nature of suicide, a holistic approach is necessary. Families, communities, educational institutions, and the government must collaborate to provide the support network that individuals need. Creating spaces for open conversations about mental health, reducing stigmas, and offering accessible mental health resources are crucial steps in the right direction. Just as societal attitudes have evolved over time, so too can our collective response to suicide.
While the Nigerian government has taken some steps, such as banning the open sale of certain pesticides used for suicide and establishing initiatives like the Suicide Research and Prevention Initiative (SURPIN), experts agree that a multi-faceted approach is needed. Ramisi Lasisi, a sociologist, emphasizes the importance of social support systems within families and educational institutions. He notes that both familial ties and institutional guidance can play a crucial role in preventing suicide.
Additionally, economic support through grants or loans for students is recommended as a means to alleviate financial stressors. However, addressing this complex issue requires a holistic approach that involves mental health awareness, access to treatment, and societal transformation.
As Nigeria grapples with this escalating crisis, the urgency to address mental health and suicide prevention cannot be overstated. The rising suicides serve as a grim reminder of the need to foster a supportive environment for the country’s youth, ensuring that they have the resources and resilience to navigate life’s challenges.
Suicide is a major public health problem with far-reaching social, emotional and economic consequences. It is estimated that there are currently more than 700,000 suicides per year worldwide, and we know that each suicide profoundly affects many more people.
With World Suicide Prevention Day 2023 approaching, themed “Creating Hope Through Action,” the message resonates that there is an alternative to suicide and that collective actions can offer hope and reinforce prevention efforts.
Established in 2003 by the International Association for Suicide Prevention in collaboration with the World Health Organization (WHO), World Suicide Prevention Day on September 10th each year aims to spotlight the issue, counter stigma, and heighten awareness among organisations, governments, and the public, ultimately delivering the vital message that suicides can be prevented.
“Creating Hope Through Action” is the triennial theme for the World Suicide Prevention Day from 2021-2023. This theme serves as a powerful call to action and reminder that there is an alternative to suicide and that through our actions we can encourage hope and strengthen prevention.
(Attached are samples of suicide notes by written by a Nigerian youth before his death)