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Criminalising suicide attempts worsening situation, experts warn

By Waliat Musa
12 September 2022   |   2:39 am
Mental experts have raised the alarm over the effect of criminalisation of suicide attempts as a way of stemming the tide of incidences, which according to them is worsening the problem rather than solving it.

[ FILES] Image shows man isolated

730,000 people commit suicide annually – WHO
• ‘60m Nigerians suffering from mental illnesses’

Mental experts have raised the alarm over the effect of criminalisation of suicide attempts as a way of stemming the tide of incidences, which according to them is worsening the problem rather than solving it.

This is as the World Health Organisation (WHO) at the weekend said an estimated 703,000 people commit suicide yearly on the occasion of the 2022 World Suicide Prevention Day (WSPD), observed every September 10.

The global health institution said every 45 seconds, someone dies of suicide around the world. It added that for every suicide, 25 people make a suicide attempt and more have serious thoughts of suicide.

According to WHO, suicide is the fourth leading cause of death among 15-19 year-olds, with over 77 per cent of global cases recorded in low- and middle-income countries in 2019.

In Nigeria, the available records have revealed that criminalisation of attempted suicide has neither discouraged victims from attempting it nor stopped the eventual commission of the act.

Consultant psychiatrist and founder, Asido Foundation, Dr. Jibril Abdulmalik, at a virtual address organised by Suicide Is No Solution (SINS) in commemoration of WSPD at the weekend, said Nigeria is one of the few countries that still criminalise attempted suicide.

He called on the Federal Government to revamp the laws and sign in modern legislation that protects the dignity of patients suffering from depression and treats its citizens with empathy.

“Attempted suicide ought to be completely removed from Nigerian law as a crime and treated as a psychosocial problem requiring a humane solution,” he added.

WSPD focuses attention on the issue, reduces stigma and raises awareness among organisations, government, and the public, giving a singular message that suicide can be prevented.

In its statement to mark the annual celebration, WHO called for global action to prevent suicide, noting that “creating hope through action” is the triennial theme for WSPD from 2021 – 2023 “to serve as a reminder that there is an alternative to suicide and aims to inspire confidence and light in all of us.”

PROF. Taiwo Obindo, President, Association of Psychiatrists in Nigeria (APN), has said more than 60 million Nigerians are suffering from mental illnesses.

Obindo, who is also the Chairman, Faculty of Psychiatry, West African College of Physicians, Nigeria Chapter, said this in an interview with newsmen in Abuja yesterday.

“Mental healthcare is in a sorry state given that we have more than 60 million Nigerians suffering from various mental illnesses and the fact that only about 10 per cent of them were able to access appropriate care.

“We are left with more than 90 per cent who are unable to access care and this group is called the treatment gap for mental illnesses,’’ Obindo said.

Yesterday, a 19-year-old student of Ipetu-Ijesa College of Technology, Osun, Olonade Tomiwa, committed suicide in Ilesa. The deceased was found hanging in the compound from a telephone wire

On Friday, a staff member of the University of Benin (UNIBEN), Carter Oshodin, committed suicide in Umelu area of Upper Sakponba over unfavourable financial conditions. It was alleged that Oshodin had not been paid salaries for months due to the strike action embarked upon by university unions.

He was a data entry personnel at the university.

Abdulmalik urged families, friends and parents to take note of the people around them because before any attempt to suicide, there is always a hint and a better approach should be given to the person in order to get an insight into what is going on in the person’s mind.

He further appealed to parents and older siblings to have close confiding relationships with the children relate well and share their mistakes with their children.

Also, a mental health practitioner, Adewoye Adetoutanni, said most suicidal victims are not psychotic, they are emotionally pained because suicide is like a desperate attempt to escape suffering.

Adetountanni noted that people should validate those who nurse suicidal feelings through sensitivity, confidentiality, and genuine empathy and recommend them to therapists.

Speaking on the causes of suicide, counselling psychologist/ psychotherapist addiction expert, Mrs. Elizabeth Babalola, said aside from mental health, the economic situation is the paramount issue and cause of suicide, hence, when needs are not met, suicide is being seen as an option and a permanent solution to a temporary issue.

Babalola noted that 90 per cent come in with drug addiction as a result of depression, urging relatives and friends of attempted suicide to avoid being judgmental, listen actively, show empathy and be confidential with their thoughts to avoid stigmatization.

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