Dealing with rising cases of suicide

When people kill themselves, they think they’re ending the pain, but all they’re doing is passing it on to those they leave behind – Jeannette Walls, American author and journalist.

SEPTEMBER 10 every year is set aside globally to mark the World Suicide Prevention Day. While commemorating this year’s suicide prevention day, the World Health Organisation (WHO), released some staggering statistics. In the data revealed by WHO, at least one person dies worldwide from suicide every 40 seconds. Globally, apart from road injury, which is the number one cause of death, WHO reported that, suicide is the second leading cause of death among young people aged 15-29, saying about 800,000 people die yearly due to suicide. According to WHO, for every death by suicide, 20 to 25 more people have attempted it. Few days ago, a 16-year-old lady revealed to me how she made an attempt to end her life in May this year because she failed her university admission examination. She was of the view that life was no longer worth living, given the fact that she prepared hard for the exam yet she failed. She also attributed her frustration to the continuous nagging of the parents, who according to her,turned their back on her. She narrated further that, were it not for timely words of advice and encouragement from her home lesson tutors, she would have opted for the killer agrochemical, sniper pesticide. She added that, those tutors, who were unaware of her attempt to kill self, aborted the purported plans and their inadvertent intervention via regular checks by phone eventually saved her. The thoughts of suicide later vanished as she heeded advice from those tutors.

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A pertinent question that bothers one is: why would a sixteen-year-old consider suicide after failing an exam that she had only attempted once? Perhaps there is more to the circumstance that warranted the suicide prompt than meets the ordinary eye. A very close friend of mine offered an emphatic answer to that sincere question. He put it simply: juvenile comparisons! While the submission may hold true from a point of view, it may not from another angle. Comparison may be healthy and sometimes unhealthy depending on who or what is being compared. Undue peer pressure is also one of the causes of suicide among young people. They consider themselves inferior on account of what their friends have which they lack. They begin to express this feeling of lack in the way they relate with those around them as it degenerates to keeping to self (isolation). Depression then creeps in, andif not checked, suicidal thoughts will follow too.

It will be on point to add that, most young ones out there have become used to a lifestyle of instant outcomes and results. That moral value which teaches and encourages patience has dwindled, sunk and subsequently disappeared in our society today. The minds of youths, especially millennials, have been wired and configured to getting things done quickly or by cutting corners with a zero waiting time. Life to these teenagers should be a bed of roses, but when they encounter challenges or delays, life becomes hard and unbearable. This zero-waiting-time mentality or orientation of our youths nowadays has weakened their capacity to endure any delay, hardship or temporal setback in their pursuits. When they are hit by the vicissitudes of life with an attendant rock-bottom experience, they tend to throw in the towel because they haven’t developed that needed capacity to withstand challenges. If by chance things quickly fall in place for them in their pursuits, they are home and dry. They are not familiar with the concept of delaying gratification after a major success, hence such achievement may not stand the test of time. Youths should acquire life skills that will teach and enable them cope with stress, failure and disappointment. It will get them equipped and make them resolutely determined to succeed in a legitimate way no matter the challenges they may encounter. Late American Church Minister, Martin Luther King, Jr, opined that: “The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moment of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.” This drives home the point that man is defined by how he is able to handle adversity.

Reported cases of suicide and attempted suicide abound in the last few months. The recent disturbing dimension to suicide in Nigeria, pesticide self-poisoning, has become prevalent among youths, and it calledfor action from relevant authorities. This led to the placing of a ban on Sniper by the National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC) because of its abuse and misuse. NAFDAC said the sale of sniper insecticide in open markets and supermarkets is now prohibited. A fact sheet released by WHO, states: “…many suicides happen impulsively in moments of crisis with a breakdown in the ability to deal with life stresses, such as financial problems, relationship break-up, or chronic pain and illness. In addition, experiencing conflict, disaster, violence, abuse, or loss and sense of isolation are strongly associated with suicidal behavior. Suicide rates are also high amongst vulnerable groups who experience discrimination, such as refugees and migrants…and prisoners. By far the strongest risk factor for suicide is a previous suicide attempt.” In proffering measures as solutions to suicide and suicide attempts, WHO saidthatthereshould be reduction in access to means of suicide, media report in a responsible way, intervention by schools, follow-up care for people with suicidal tendencies among others. The Director-General of WHO, DrTedrosAdhanom Ghebreyesus, recently declared:  “Every death is a tragedy for family, friends and colleagues. Yet suicides are preventable. We call on all countries to incorporate proven suicide prevention strategies into national health and education programmes in a sustainable way.” Life, they say, is not a bed of roses. It is a blend of good and bad times. Sometimes, we get what we want at the right time, and at another time our wishes are delayed or even denied. It is when things do not go as expected that we begin to question our existence.

Sometimes, due to the enormity of man’s challenges, our sense of indebt reasoning can be beclouded by the current unpleasant situation of things. At that point, thinking straight might be difficult and then, abominable thoughts of trying irrational things will come to mind.

•Ojewale writes in from Idimu, Lagos.