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Innocent Cyril (@admin)
2 months ago
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At 45, Laolu Martins could be described as a successful man. A graduate of the University of Lagos, where he read Business Administration, Martins had spent over two decades as an investment banker before teaming up with like minds to establish a top-notch restaurant in the heart of Lagos with branches in several parts of the state.

However, on Wednesday last week, Martins was confirmed dead at a private hospital in Lagos, where he was rushed to.

While an account stated that Martins, who had suffered depression of recent, took his own life, family friends insisted that he fell and lost consciousness and was pronounced dead at the hospital. Whether his death was through suicide or not, the once-vibrant young man is no longer with us, leaving behind dependents who are still in shock by his demise.

In Nigeria, depression-induced suicide has been on the rise. Many Nigerians are going through difficult times and the support system that was there when we were growing up in the 70s is no longer there. I can’t recall the number of times that I fell asleep in the house of neighbours and my parent will leave me there. I was over six years old before I could differentiate who my real siblings were as our house took care of more than 10 children when it was time to eat. A total stranger will beat and correct you when you step out of line and even report you to your parents for another round of beating. It was such a communal form of living and raising of children that I grew up knowing and cherishing.

One of my younger sisters insisted at the tender age of two, to follow my dad’s older sister when she came visiting, to Ibadan, Oyo State, and her wish was granted. It was Mama Ibadan (may God bless her soul) that raised and trained her till adulthood. During festivities, over 30 children eat from the same pot. Where the money for the feeding came from was not known to us. But in Nigeria of today, things have changed. You dare not spank a child that does not belong to you and you have no business feeding your neighbours children. In fact, they have been taught not to take anything or eat any food from “strangers”.

Children, and even adults, now bottle up so many things, suffering from depression without any support system. It is therefore not a surprise that the rate of suicide has been on the rise in Nigeria and other African countries.

The Lagos State Police command recently has to permanently put a team of its men on the Third Mainland Bridge on 24-hour surveillance when it became apparent that the Bridge has become an easy target for those willing to put an end to it all. On more than four occasions this year alone, they succeeded in rescuing depressed and frustrated Nigerians while attempting to commit suicide by jumping into the lagoon. While the police in Lagos are saving some, the depressed, frustrated and suicidal in other parts of the country are succeeding.

On May 13, 2021, a 200-level student of Adekunle Ajasin University, Akungba-Akoko, Ondo State, Feranmi Fasule, committed suicide. She was reported to have taken insecticide and was rushed to the Federal Medical Centre, Owo, where she gave up the ghost. On February 17 this year, a 400-level Mathematics student of the Federal University, Dutse, Jigawa State, Bashir Abdullahi, also committed suicide because his girlfriend, one Raf’at, jilted him. Abdullahi, an indigene of Ungwa Uku Tarauni Local Government Area of Kano State, took the action because he could not bear the pain of his girlfriend leaving him on Valentine’s Day.

Again on April 20, a 200-level student of the Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife, Osun State, in the Department of Management and Accounting, Emmanuel Adedeji, committed suicide. Adedeji, it was said, left a suicide note after he took a poisonous substance which led to his death. A classmate of the deceased said Emmanuel suffered depression after a failed business deal. Also, on June 25, the grandson of a multi-billionaire, Prince Samuel Adedoyin, Subomi Olobayo, died by suicide. The 28-year-old was reported to have committed suicide at his parents’ home, in GRA, Ilorin. The stories of Fasule, Adedeji and Olabayo are among the rising cases of depression and suicide among youths. While some were reported in the media, some may never catch the attention of members of the public.

Indeed, many Nigerians are going through a lot. Many are depressed, due to financial challenges, while several others are battling one ailment or the other and they believe that ending it all will put a stop to their pains. The global harsh economic crisis which does not exempt Nigeria has turned survival into that of the fittest. Even those that are working and earning salaries are complaining, much less about 30 per cent of our men and women that are without jobs, making suicide an attractive option for many. Yet, it is not in our culture for one to contemplate taking one’s life. It is, in fact, considered a taboo in many cultures and religions. The reality, however, is that many are now embracing it “with their full chest”.

A clinical psychologist at the Ladoke Akintola University Teaching Hospital, Ogbomosho, Oyo State, Dr. Oluwafisayo Adebimpe, has identified depression as one of the leading causes of death in the young adult population in Nigeria. She said: “Depression is significantly under-diagnosed in the youths, partially because mental health experts look for symptoms of adult depression, which may be present differently in youths. However, a young person experiencing persistent boredom or disinterest in daily activities because of depression can become agitated and difficult to manage. Most often, these young people do not always seem unhappy or sad. They rarely get treatment for the underlying cause(s) of their behaviour.”

Depression is a common mental disorder that presents with depressed mood, loss of interest or pleasure, decreased energy, feelings of guilt or low self-worth, disturbed sleep or appetite and poor concentration. Moreover, depression often comes with symptoms of anxiety. These problems can become chronic or recurrent and lead to substantial impairments in an individual’s ability to take care of his or herself and everyday responsibilities. At its worst, depression can lead to suicide.

According to the World Health Organisation, almost one million lives are lost yearly due to suicide, which translates into 3,000 suicide deaths every day. For every person who contemplates suicide, 20 or more may actually go through with it. This is where love, care and support for those suffering from depression should be of paramount importance in any society.

In Nigeria however, the opposite is the case as it is still a crime for one to contemplate suicide. People who are known to have attempted suicide are considered failures, are arrested and prosecuted. Section 327 of the Criminal Code states that: “Any person who attempts to kill himself is guilty of a misdemeanour and is liable to imprisonment for one year.”

But a member of the House of Representatives, Francis Waive (PDP, Delta), is about ensuring that the legislation is changed and has proposed an amendment in the lower house to that effect. The proposed amendment is seeking to replace imprisonment with compulsory counselling and community service. The amendment he is canvassing for states: “Any person who attempts to kill himself is guilty of a misdemeanour, and is liable to compulsory counselling and community service not less than six months.” Waive, in his lead debate, said attempted suicide is a call for help and should not be met with more punishment.

“Suicidal people are in need of effective treatments, counselling and assistance, not punishment. Penalizing attempted suicide is hardly a prevention method. Instead, the law should direct the appropriate authorities to assist the traumatised attempters. “Self-destructive behaviour is often a cry for help since suicide is mainly an indication of underlying mental and psychological disorder. The criminal laws are better suited for prosecuting criminal acts, not an exhibited call for help and act of distress,” he said. The lawmaker also lamented the surge in suicide cases in Nigeria, linking it to the increase in mental health challenges. His motion was taken without any debate and referred to the House Committee on Justice to study and come up with appropriate legislation.

While the lawmakers are on in their attempt to give a human face to the issue of attempted suicide, it is time for Nigerians to go back to our communal lifestyle where we are truly our brother’s keepers. We should reach out more to those whom we suspect may be going through a difficult path and see how we could be of help. We should know our neighbours, be gracious to our children and be good humans with empathy towards one another as our faiths preach. A simple phone call, visiting, offering a listening ear or words of encouragement may go a long way at relieving another’s stress levels and pent-up emotions, and offer a leeway for those with suicidal tendencies.

Our leaders should also think more of those who elected them to offices and put in place measures that could alleviate the suffering of the masses. Nigeria is gradually becoming a hopeless nation with over 50 per cent of the youths looking for ways and means of leaving the country. It is so bad now that Libya, Mali, and even Togo are now the destinations of choice to Nigerians who have lost hope of a better Nigeria. It is when those you are presiding over are okay that you will be able to close your eyes and take a rest.

The suffering masses have been pushed to the wall and are now turning back to haunt the system that turned them helpless victims of circumstance. It is not only those that are weak physically and mentally that are contemplating suicide. Others who are seemingly strong and doing ‘fine’ may just be putting up a brave front for fear of being seen as weak.

For our leaders who have the political power, it is hoped that they exercise enough political will to address the challenges messing with the mental health of majority of the population to avert an ugly scenario where the helpless rise against their perceived oppressors. Should that situation present itself, no amount of security or bulletproof cars will save anyone.

See you next week.