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Published On: Tue, Mar 18th, 2014

Suicide: A cowardly way to evade challenges?

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On the eve of Christmas Day in 2013; Mr. Frederick Onigbo, 40, a father of seven and a resident of Abuja, committed suicide.

The man had been complaining about his harrowing experience of living in an expensive city such as Abuja, saying that it had made it virtually impossible for him to cater for his family.

Reports said that prior to his death, Onigbo, a cab driver, also complained about his inability to repair his taxi which developed some faults and his inability to pay his children’s school fees due to paucity of funds.

Neighbours said that the death of Onigbo’s mother in November 2013 and his inability to raise funds for her burial also made him to become morose and edgy, adding that this might have contributed to his decision to end it all.

Onigbo committed suicide by setting himself ablaze behind a petrol station in the Gwarimpa neighbourhood of Abuja.

Onigbo’s case aptly typifies the plight of several others who decided to commit suicide because of the hard times they were facing.

Concerned citizens bemoan the growing trend of suicide in Nigeria in recent times, irrespective of factors such as age, tribe, religion, social class or gender.

They recall that a teenager, Boluwatife Oyeniyi, recently committed suicide by hanging himself on a tree in his school compound in Kwara.

Also, 24-year old Abubakar Ahmed of Ganten-Tudu, Kebbi, committed suicide by hanging himself on a tree because he could not produce the N40,000 dowry demanded for a marriage bid.

Even an average income earner, 26-year old Motunrayo Ogbara, a banker, was said to be suffering depression before she took her life in Lagos recently.

Observers are particularly worried that most of the people that committed suicide are youths who still have a lot of opportunities in future.

With the rising cases of suicide in the country, they, therefore, wonder if suicide has become an acceptable way of dodging the stark challenges of life.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) says that suicide is one of the three leading causes of death among people with ages from 15 to 44 years in some countries and the second leading cause of death in the 10 to 24 years age-bracket.

It states that every year, about one million people die from suicide; a figure which represents a global mortality rate of 16 people per 100, 000 people or one death in every 40 seconds.

WHO also predicts that by 2020, the rate of suicide-induced deaths would have increased to one death in every 20 seconds.

However, Mr Frank Mba, the Force Public Relations Officer of the Nigeria Police, said that the suicide culture was hitherto alien to Africa because Africans were not known to have suicidal tendencies.

He, however, conceded that as the world was fast becoming a global village, Nigeria was now suffering from some of the negative effects of globalisation.

“Africans generally are not known to take their lives because the traditional religion, which most of our forefathers practiced, sees suicide as a taboo.

“In those days, a person who committed suicide was not buried and the body would be dumped in the evil forest; however, the world is becoming a global village.

“If you look at those suicide cases, you will discover that it is more of a generational thing and most of them happen among people of 35 years and below and these are people who are Internet savvy,’’ he said.

Mba, nonetheless, called on parents to give more attention to their children’s upbringing, arguing that “parental upbringing in this generation appears to be defective.’’

In his view, Bishop Christian Ebisike of Ngbo Diocese, Anglican Communion, Ebonyi, said Christianity totally forbade suicide under any guise.

“When somebody commits suicide, it is a terrible sin because you cannot give life and cannot take it; so the Bible is against it,’’ he said.

Ebisike urged the church to have counselling departments to advice people, who might be going through harrowing times, on how to cope with life in a more pragmatic way.

“The church should be more involved in the ministry of the youth; it should pay more attention to their needs, while guiding them through life.

“The church should stop prosperity preaching and teach the tenets of the Bible, the youth should not be made to believe that everything comes easy or that they could be successful without working hard.

“They have to work hard; they should have a vision for the future and know how to achieve this vision in the proper way,’’ he said.

All the same, Ebisike appealed to the government to create more jobs for the teeming jobless youths, saying that many youngsters usually lapsed into depression out of frustration.

Sharing similar sentiments, the Chief Imam, National Assembly Quarters Mosque, Abuja, Sheikh Nura Khalid, said that it was forbidden and unpardonable in Islam for anyone to commit suicide.

Saying that anyone who committed suicide would end up in hell, Khalid quoted a passage in the Holy Qur’an which states: “The one who kills himself with a steel object will have his steel in his hand to stab his stomach in the hell.’’

Similarly, Section 326 of the Criminal Code Act of Nigeria says that “any person who procures another to kill himself; or counsels another to kill himself and thereby induces him to do so; or aids another in killing himself; is guilty of a felony and is liable to imprisonment for life.’’

Section 327 of the code says that “any person who attempts to kill himself is guilty of a misdemeanour, and is liable to imprisonment for one year.’’

The question then is that if taking one’s life is against the law, why do people still see it as a way out of their problems.

Commenting on the causes of suicide, a Clinical Psychologist at Ekiti State University Teaching Hospital, Ado Ekiti, Dr. Ajiboye Adedotun, said depression could lead to suicide, if not properly managed.

He also said that mental disorder, marital, occupational and financial problems or the loss of a loved one could lead to suicide.

“The risk factors for suicide vary by age, gender, and ethnic group and the risk factors often occur in combinations.

“Suicide does not just happen as a result of a sudden issue but it is due to accumulated issues; the thought of these issues could probably lead to depression,’’ he said.

Adedotun, nonetheless, insisted that “if one takes poisonous substances or tries to take his or her life in the presence of others, such a person is only seeking attention and not trying to commit suicide.’’

He condemned some actions which people usually took to stop depression as counterproductive.

“Often, people attempt to alleviate the symptoms of depression by drinking alcohol or using drugs which can increase the risks of suicide by impairing judgment,’’ he said.

The consultant said that most depressed people were not even aware of the symptoms, adding, however, that people around them could be of help by giving words of comfort.

Adedotun said that being a friend to a depressed person could reduce his or her suicidal tendencies, stressing, however, that failure to treat depression could heighten the risks of suicide.

He, nonetheless, said that in some cases, psychotherapies such as cognitive behavioural therapy or interpersonal therapy could be used to alleviate the symptoms of depression.

All in all, analysts underscore the need for the health authorities to take a holistic look into the factors behind the rising wave of suicide in the country, with a view to addressing them in a pragmatic way.(Source: NAN)


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