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Taming the scourge of suicide among students

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Back in the day, suicide rarely occured, and when it did, it was usually among the elderly ones. But today, all that has changed, as stories of terminating one’s life have become so common among contemporary youths. UJUNWA ATUEYI writes on how the once dreaded act could be prevented among pupils.

As dreadful and abominable the act of terminating one’s life in Africa is, it is indeed horrendous that the contemporary Nigerian youths find suicide as a soothing healer of depression.Young people’s inability to manage frustration and despair seems to be on the rise with the government, parents and schools doing little or nothing to avert the monstrous act.Some weeks ago, Nigerians woke to the news of a teenage girl who allegedly committed suicide in Rumuokoro community, Rivers State, for being chastised over unwanted pregnancy.

The 17-year-old identified only as Abibatu, according to reports was a pupil of one of the secondary schools in the area. She decided to end her life by taking insecticide after her parents scolded her for the pregnancy.Also in Delta State, a candidate who sat for the 2018 Unified Tertiary Matriculation Examination (UTME) was reported to have committed suicide for performing below her expectation in the examination.

The teenager identified as Loveth, terminated her life with three bottles of insecticide after her father told her it won’t be possible for her to study medicine with her score of 160 aggregate.Also in February this year, a 26-year-old microbiology student of the Delta State University (DELSU), identified as Evelyn Mogekwu reportedly killed herself after being jilted by her fiancé.

Reports said the end of the seven-year relationship traumatised the girl as all plans to walk down the aisle with her boyfriend failed. She ended her life since should could not handle the depression.The list can chronologically go on and on, as the abominable act appears to be the swiftest means of resolving frustrating issues among the youths.

However, these regrettable incidents according to stakeholders could be prevented if the government, schools, parents and of course the society understand they have a role and live up to their expectations in that regard.

Consultant Psychiatric and lecturer, University of Lagos (UNILAG), Dr. Oluseun Peter Nubi, who confirmed increased cases of suicidal activities in the country, linked the act to family dynamics, socio-economic situation, peer pressure and westernisation.He said the crave for money has set families apart as both parents are working and always busy without recognising and attending to the emotional needs of their children.

Nubi said if children cannot confide and share problems with their parents, if they have no emotional support, they would grow with poor coping mechanism and belief that death is the only option. On socio-economic, peer pressure and westernisation, Nubi blamed government and its poor leadership vision, saying that in developed climes, things are done differently for public good.

According to him, “Before now suicide use to be a very dreadful thing, we use to think suicide is western thing, but we are imbibing it now, people are looking for a way out. There are lots of novels out there, like 1000 ways to die, and people are becoming bold to do it because of what they see and read on the Internet. Someone will go to school and shoot him/herself, suicide bombers everywhere. And so all this inculcation of western habit is beginning to affect our youths, they are no longer afraid of death when they are frustrated.”

He said parents, schools, government at all levels and the society have a huge role to play in addressing the current trend before it goes out of hand.“Before anybody commits suicide, there must be what we call Suicide Red Flag, that is symptoms and signs you see to know that that this person is about to do something cruel. So society should be aware of this and must never take threats like ‘I want to kill myself… I will die’ lightly. This is when monitoring and counselling should commence.

“Schools must have a robust guardian/counselling unit, people that commits suicide, are in High Risk Group (HRG). Counsellors in all our schools should be able to identify the HRG in primary, secondary and universities. How do you know them? Those who are always absent from school; those who cannot afford their school fees; those who look tattered, wearing the same uniform/shoes for years; those who are always on their own; those not performing well in school; those who are drinking and smoking; those who are in a relationship that is battered and tattered. They all need counselling.”

On the part of parents, he said, “They must have high in depth of suspicion. Parents should pay unexpected visit to their wards, go to their rooms and do some checking, peep into their diary if you suspect your child is suicidal. Mothers should probe their children and their relationships. If your child is a cultist, you can detect it from regular checks and monitoring. If your child is in a battered relationship and is almost giving up, you can detect.”

Above all, Nubi said government should provide Suicide Intervention Strategy (SIS). “Nigeria is one of the few nation that does not have SIS. Both the federal, state and local government should have suicide call centre. In Australia, people can actually dial a number if they feel suicidal. Once you beep or call that number, the centre will call you back and immediately ambulance will pick up the person and attend to whatever may be the need at that time. They can get a counsellor, psychiatric, psychotherapy to talk to the victim.

Unfortunately, we don’t even have national suicide prevention plan, at national and even at local and state level, these are things that should be put in place so that people can have access to it…all someone need is someone to talk to,” he summarised.Also research findings on the website of National Association of School Psychologists (NASP), Bethesda, United States, affirmed that people who are contemplating suicide often show warning signs of being distressed.

And this is where parents, teachers, and friends come in and see how they can intervene and avert the seeming danger. Also care givers at homes, schools and within the neighbourhood must understand these signs so as to be able to detect when something is about to go wrong.“They should never take these warning signs lightly or promise to keep them secret. When all adults and students in the school community are committed to making suicide prevention a priority-and are empowered to take the correct actions-we can help youths before they engage in behaviour with irreversible consequences.

“Children and adolescents spend a substantial part of their day in school under the supervision of school personnel. Effective suicide and violence prevention is integrated with supportive mental health services, engages the entire school community, and is embedded in a positive school climate through student behavioural expectations and a caring and trusting student/adult relationship.

“Therefore, it is crucial for all school staff members to be familiar with, and watchful for, risk factors and warning signs of suicidal behaviour. The entire school staff should work to create an environment where students feel safe sharing such information. School psychologists and other crisis response team personnel, including the school counselor and school administrator, are trained to intervene when a student is identified at risk for suicide,” the report stated.Professor of Sociology, Lagos State University (LASU), Elias Wahab, who also blamed the situation on the failure of state and religious bodies to live up to their mandates, stressed that functional guidance and counseling units in schools is imperative.

According to him, there are four types of suicide: anomic, fatalistic, egoistic, altruistic suicide and people who actually commit the physical act of suicide often fall into three areas.“What you find happening in Nigeria mostly is a kind of anomic, fatalistic and egoistic suicides resulting from frustration. Aggressive suicide happening when there is a failure in the state. When the state has failed, people will resort to religion, now with the ministration of religion, the capitalism revolving around religion, many people cannot find answers to those frustrations.

“When the state has failed, religion is also not living up to expectations, then people decides to commits suicide. Such suicide is highly rebellious, it emanates from serious thoughts, which comes to the conclusion that life is not worthy of living. They have been to religious houses and they prayed for you, yet no solution.”Wahab said for the situation to be averted, the state, family and schools must perform its function towards the citizens, as most of these suicides are preventable.

“Before someone commits suicide, you will see the signs, the person must have been complaining and nobody seems to be listening. State has a lot of role to play, family has a role and most importantly we as individuals should also try to increase on our shock absorber. We should understand the fact that we cannot get everything that we desire in life, and taking someone’s life is not the solution.

“Plato said, every human being must feel pleasure and pain. Some people have very little shock absorber for pains. When they feel small pains like this, they will feel it’s the end of life. Because of the understanding I have about life, the kind of pain I might feel, if another person feels it, he/she will go and commit suicide while I will be smiling with hope to overcome. So there is need for regular guidance and counselling in every units.”

On how to work on one’s shock absorber, he explained, “it is about experience and strong conviction of I can do it.”Now that stakeholders have proffered solutions to help stop suicide among pupils, students and undergraduates, will parents, schools, government, and the society heed to the call? Only time will tell.


In this article:
Oluseun Peter Nubi
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