It happened before the recent spate of suicides reported by different media outlets started. Specifically, it was on a Thursday, a dreaded day as a medical student. Intensive clinical activities jostle for space on my schedule for the day, gifting fatigue and hunger the freedom to roam my body at will. Nonetheless, later in the evening on the said day, I had to drag my frail body to the autopsy room to witness the way bodies are being mutilated in search for the exact cause of their death and get signed for observing the procedure. As I sauntered to the entrance, I was met with a stench, which is not unusual as autopsies are performed only on dead bodies. But this stench was different; it was similar to that which oozes from a putrefying rat. To my dismay, the stench was from a deceased teenage girl whose midriff had just been opened up. She had just committed suicide by pushing rat poison down her throat. Why? Her boyfriend deserted her, her clinical history revealed. Pity engulfed me. I lamented. Little did I know that suicide cases would headline the news in weeks that followed.
As at 2018, Nigeria had risen to 5th among nations with the highest number of suicide cases, per year, per 100,000. This rise seems show no sign of declining as the number of suicide cases in recent weeks in Nigeria have been increasing daily like age. Within a month, according to an article published by Sunday Magazine, five young people were reported to have taken their lives for reasons ranging from failure in an examination to mental illnesses. Disheartening and Unfortunate. Showing no signs of fatigue, the malaise continues to deplete the vibrant population of this nation, threatening more havoc if we fail to act in unity and take the bull by its horn. It is understatement to say Nigeria is in dire need of remedies to de-escalate the societal menace.
Remedying the malaise requires a grasp of its causes. Proffering solutions with no knowledge of its causes is thinking a perennial plant would stop growing by merely cutting off its branches; certainly, an illusion would that be. The cinder of suicide among young persons in Nigeria is fanned by different causes, most of which could be said to lead to a single most common cause and that is, without equivocation, clinical depression.
Clinical depression, going by World Health Organisation’s definition, is a mood disorder characterized by persistent feeling of sadness and loss of interest. People suffering from clinical depression have been shown to show chronic lack of interest and withdrawal from their environment. This symptoms foreshadow the mischief (suicide contemplation, neurologic breakdown) to come. And in severe cases, clinical depression makes its sufferer hunger for death. Youths are plunged into depression by different reasons. This reasons include and are not limited to: failure in examinations, which is particularly malignant when expectations and hopes are high; economic hardship, whose pangs hit hard in a nation like Nigeria known to be accelerating in the reverse direction; stigmatisation, from which people suffering from chronic illnesses and communicable viral diseases suffer; and pressure, from family and peers.
In addition to the aforementioned, the negative influence social media is having on the youths cannot be expunged from the reasons why the prevalence of suicides is on the rise. Youths not only copy the positives online media throw at them, they but also hastily swallow the negatives, too, and they look for the opportunity to experiment them, regardless of how malevolent they are.
Bad parenting can also be held responsible for the elevated levels of suicide among young ones. Educated parents are particularly guilty of this. They not only put pressure on their to children to follow career path chosen for them, they also pressure them to perform excellently in courses these children have no interest in. Anything short of these expectations plunges the children into depression, escalating suicide rate. It is disheartening that good parenting is a scarce commodity nowadays.
With the causes identified, the appropriate remedies can be proffered. Top on the list of remedies is the creation of awareness. It could be said without erring that ignorance about clinical depression is an accomplice to the mental condition in its bid to wipe out the country’s youth population; this can be addressed through active programs to get the youths informed about their mental health. Misinformed youths – those with the notion that depression is a disease of the elite and the Westerners – would also be re-oriented. The awareness programs would inform people about how to identify those with suicidal tendencies and take swift actions. To achieve an effective orientation, every means possible – mass media, online media, etc. – should be employed.
In addition, youths should be encouraged to seek medical attention regularly; particularly, appertaining to their mental health. All forms of misconceptions held by religious fanatics – that mental derangement is a doing of the devil or some unseen witches – should be expunged and eradicated.
Parents should desist from putting pressure on their children to achieve their egocentric desires. Children and youths, as with people living with chronic illnesses, should be encouraged and supported at all times: supported in their positive pursuits; supported to achieve their dreams, and not compelled to dogmatically follow dictates. They should equally be chided when need be. Above all, they should be shown love. Love heals.
Furthermore, the government should ensure swift medical attention is provided to those who fall victim of clinical depression by sufficiently staffing federal and state hospitals with psychotherapists and clinical psychologist. The economy of the nation should also be improved upon to reduce economic hardship. This would reduce the mass exodus of health care professionals seeking greener pastures outside the shores of this nation, ensuring the availability of health professionals in the process, and reducing the number of people falling into clinical depression.
In conclusion, just of recent, a Facebook friend posted on his timeline a melancholic message typical of a depressed individual contemplating suicide. The message in his post accentuates the moral decadence (the urge to follow the trend) prevalent among the youths of this nation. Simultaneously, it also underscores the dire need to implement the remedies enunciated above to abate the rising prevalence of depression, and its resultant effect, suicide, among young people. Everyone – the government, parents, teachers, etc. – has a role to play in implementing the remedies. The earlier, the better, because the spike in suicide rate is a cause for alarm for this nation. It is a cause for concern before a significant percentage of the country’s vibrant population is sent on an untimely journey of no return. We should always keep in mind that upon the shoulders of the youths rest the hopes and future of this nation. We cannot afford to joke with their lives.