• Tuesday, May 21, 2024
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BusinessDay

Mental health experts urge action against rising suicide rate in Nigeria

Breaking the cycle of suicide in Nigeria

There is growing concern among mental health experts about paranoid ideation and the urge to commit suicide which are becoming common in Nigeria and are currently manifesting in the increase in the number of people plunging into the Lagos Lagoon.

Although the reasons why people attempt suicide are varied and complex, what is certain is that the victims are often subjected to severe emotional and physical pain they cannot bear.

Read also: Financial challenge, depression, others raise suicide rate among students

In response to the mounting stress induced by Nigeria’s challenging economic climate, with the rise in the use of drug abuse amongst youths, poor power supply, kidnappings, violent conflicts, psychiatrists have proposed laughter, music, and dance therapy as effective coping mechanisms.

Since the beginning of the year, Nigeria has witnessed a troubling increase in deaths by suicide, with many attributed to socio-economic pressures.

Mental health experts, who spoke with BusinessDay, gave this advice in response to stemming the tide of the increasing suicide rates in the country.

BusinessDay has reported a couple of suicide cases in several parts of the country.

In January, a female marketing employee with a new generation bank in the Ikorodu area of Lagos and a soldier with the Nigerian Army died by suicide.

Also, a school security guard in Kano State and a 72-year-old retired soldier in Benue State hanged themselves. A Lagos socialite, Farida Sobowale, was rescued by passersby at the extension of the Third Mainland Bridge as she attempted to plunge to her death in Lagos Lagoon in August 2023.

In January, members of the police force in Lagos and the fire service in Kano, stopped two men while attempting to kill themselves. In February, two varsity students in separate schools ended their lives, while not less than three cases of death by suicide were recorded in Enugu, Lagos and Imo States in March. Meanwhile, in 2022, about 79 suicide cases were reported nationwide.

About 60 million Nigerians have been reported to be down with various types of mental illnesses, and the numbers appear to be rising.

But in a bid to reduce the rate of Nigerians sinking into depression and nursing suicidal thoughts, which are the telltale signs of mental disorders, psychiatrists recommended laughter and music therapy as coping mechanisms.

They further urged persons with mental disorders and long-term diseases who can no longer afford their drugs to speak out and seek help.

Commenting on the issue, a Professor of Psychiatry and a Clinical Psychologist at the Lagos State University College of Medicine, Ikeja, Ayodele Coker, said that there are lots of stressors that could trigger emotional distress, consequently leading to depression and suicidal ideation.

He further noted that since there seems to be no end to the current economic situation and the stressors accompanying it, Nigerians must learn how to cope with stress.

The don also recommended learning emotional resilience as a way to prevent suicide ideation and thoughts.

He advised, “Spend at least 30 minutes per day alone to introspect, pray often, meditation helps you to eliminate worries. It makes you focus your attention on life goals and creative problem-sharing.

“Also, ensure to take breakfast; eat like a king in the morning, like a prince at noon and like a pauper at night. You are what you eat and your food should be your medicine. Eat fresh fruits and vegetables. Also, forgive and forget past painful issues and forgive yourself first. Engage in fun activities every day. Learn to be financially independent.

“Judge your goals realistically. Keep a positive attitude because your attitude determines your altitude in life. Be open to new life opportunities. Say no to whatever may stress your life, don’t undertake a task you will not complete and you must not make commitments that are not consistent with your life goals.”

He also encouraged people to engage in happy moments, laughter, music and dance therapy, describing it as a medicine for all ailments and a stress reliever.

He further recommended engaging in physical activities and occasional strolls and sightseeing.

Also, a Consultant Psychiatrist at the Lagos University Teaching Hospital, Idi-Araba and the National Coordinator of the Suicide Research and Prevention Initiative, Dr. Raphael Ogbolu, said that a rise in psychosocial stressors makes people more prone to suicide.

He decried the out-of-pocket treatment of mental disorders, stating that the economic situation may worsen the situation for those who can no longer afford the medication.

Ogbolu added, “Majority of those who die by suicide may have one mental disorder or the other. However, not everyone who dies by suicide has a mental illness. Those who don’t have a mental disorder and die by suicide are also going through the stressors that everyone is facing because they are a part of society.

“In Nigeria, people must pay for medication out of pocket. Someone with a mental disorder, whose treatment is supported financially by a family member who is going through financial difficulty because of the current economic situation may no longer be able to access treatment. If they are unable to continue their treatment, their mental disorder may worsen.

“People are being weighed down by the stress of the current economic situation, which can also lead to a mental disorder. Those who don’t have mental disorders can also be suicidal because of the economic situation.”

He advised persons going through stressful times to speak to professionals who can help and not suffer in silence.

The SUPRIN’s National Coordinator said, “Talk to people, let them know what you are going through, don’t hide it. I know that in our society, there is still a lot of stigma around mental illnesses. A person who dies by suicide definitely didn’t want to continue living the way they were and what they needed was that little glimmer of hope.

“To people undergoing depression, everything appears gloomy and within that period, they need to be assured of the light at the end of the tunnel. So, they need someone to support them through that phase till they are better.

We need to prioritise mental health. People should bond together and support each other. Taking care of one’s mental health includes taking care of one’s physical health because it can impact on mental health.”

Ogbolu emphasised the importance of individuals receiving treatment for mental disorders to remain consistent with their therapy.