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Overcoming onslaught of suicide

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Suicide by hanging

If I had no sense of humuor, I would long ago have committed suicide – Mahatma Gandhi

First, he lost his only child, a boy. Next his wife left him.

Thereafter, he was managing to eke out a living as a security man in a church and not long after, he committed suicide.

This tragic story was published in a National daily Newspaper in the second week of August.

The victim was 52, which is twenty months short of the 2018 average life expectancy of Nigerians (CIA World Fact book).

Suicide is the personal decision to terminate one’s own life. It is self -murder or death.

Very unfortunately, it is becoming commonplace in Africa, nay Nigeria.

This year alone, several cases of suicide have been recorded in Nigeria such as, death by the means of self-drowning, hanging, drug misuse and use of firearms.

According to the U.S. center for Disease control and Prevention, suicide is the 10th major cause of death.

Statistics show that middle-aged people (40-55) are the worst victims.

Generally, more males commit suicide more than females. The ratio is about five males to one female.

The explanation for this curious significant difference in the rate of suicide between the genders is because more males succeed in committing suicide than females.

Naturally males are more decisive, and courageous than females and therefore succeed in carrying out their intention.

In terms of habouring suicide ideation, there may not exist any significant difference between the genders.

Research shows that females make between five to 100 times more efforts to commit suicide than their male counterparts.

According to Dr. George Murphy a psychiatrist at Washington University of Medicine, USA, the major reason why females fail at carrying out suicide act is because they posses “great emotional strength which protects them from going through with the act”

Another plausible reason why more males than females commit suicide may be due to the high societal expectations and responsibilities allotted to males.

A case of gross and prolonged inability to meet up these standards may be a fertile ground for the onset and actualization of suicide.

One common cause of suicide among the genders is depression.

Dick Cavett rightly noted this when he said, “perhaps, the saddest irony of depression is that, suicide happens when the patient gets a little better and can again function sufficiently.”

Why is a recovering clinical depressive patient suitable to committing suicide? Why take one’s own life in such a positive and encouraging period?

The reason is that the depressive patient desires to avert a relapse into depression. It is a case of fear of failure.

In order to avoid slipping back into that horrible and terrible pit of depression, the patient summons up all the strength and energy towards finding a lasting end to depression by committing suicide.

Terminal ailment is another cause of suicide.It may be at the onset of such an incurable disease or if it becomes protracted.

The idea that a diagnosis of HIV, cancer or other varieties of a protracted, incurable or terminal sickness may create the potential mindset for the victim to terminate one’s life.

At other times, involvement in a serious scandal may be the root cause of suicide.

A few years back in Lagos, a bank manager took his life because he couldn’t manage the scandal of the loss of several hundred millions of naira under his watch.

In spite of the fact that he was receiving spiritual counselling from a clergyman the victim sufficiently terminated the counselling process and committed suicide.

For some other victims of suicide the scandal could be sexual, marital, academic or spiritual.

Substance abuse is yet another cause of suicide.

Due to the alteration of the state of consciousness produced by substance abuse, suicide becomes one of the obvious consequences.

In a state of confusion, removal of inhibitions and proper reasoning, a drug addict or abuser can cause immense harm to self.

Dr. Markllgen and Felicia Kleinberg noted that, those engaged in substance abuse or dependence are six times most likely disposed to attempt committing suicide than those who don’t.

Studies show that substance abuse among males increase up to 2.3 times and 6.5 folds among females as against their fellow genders who are free from drug abuse.

Of course, purposeful misuse of drugs in the form of poison is a major source of suicide.

The ingestion of such quick acting poisons such as hydrogen cyanide, pesticides, or over-dosage of normal medication are all examples of suicide through substance abuse.

Inability to handle or manage critical occasions which threaten one’s life, vision or purpose can also predispose people to commit suicide.

For instance during war, some soldiers whose lives are threatened by the conquering force of a superior fire works perceiving that they would suffer terrible humiliation in the hands of their captors may prefer suicide to being captives.

Some athletes, or sports men and women who end with loses in monumental competition, students who fail significant examinations, lovers who suffer bitter rejection from their partners and others who experience crucial loses may be predisposed to suicide ideation or actually succeed in committing suicide.

Psychotism (the worst form of psychological/psychiatric disorder) whereby the patient loses touch with reality, is an implicated cause of suicide.

This is factual because psychoticism is a form of terminal sickness, which breeds a state of hopelessness and helplessness in the life of the victim.

Again, psychotics experience a perennial altered state of mental consciousness.

The immense impact of hallucinations, delusions, paranoia common in psychotism are significant enough to predispose someone to commit suicide.

No doubt, there are philosophical and spiritual related causes of suicide.

Individuals who harbor persecutory ideologies, others who can be spiritually manipulated or harmed can be predisposed to engage in the unfortunate act of suicide.

The solution to suicide should begin from the home front. Parents should begin early to educate their children against committing suicide.

Life is a sacred gift which no mortal has the right to terminate theirs.

Even in critical situation like that of a terminal sickness where in Euthanasia (mercy killing) may be considered by some people, life remains a sacred and priceless gift.

This initial foundational effort towards discouraging people from engaging in suicide ideation and action should be sustained by institutions such as educational, religious, political and economic systems in the society.

Africa and particularly Nigeria has attained a developmental level whereby serious and systematic attention should be given to evolving a dynamic Mental Health System.

Consequently, every state in the country should have a Psychiatric/Psychological Hospital, which is well equipped with qualified adequate mental health manpower as well as boasts of well equipped modern health facilities for research and practice.

In addition, every university and other tertiary institutions should give premium attention to the issue of mental and emotional health by establishing departments of psychology and psychiatry in their faculties or schools.

Non-governmental bodies should be involved in the enlightenment and education of the masses in the issue of achieving mental health for the populace.

Particularly the three arms of government in our nation should become more responsible and responsive to their official responsibilities by providing the basic needs of the populace such as security of lives and property, quality health services, roads, energy and water.

To a very significant degree, the provision of these amenities may drastically reduce the incidence of suicide in African, nay Nigerian society.

Aristotle once said that, “To run away from trouble is a form of cowardice and while it is true that the suicide braves death, he does it not for some noble object but to escape some ill.”

By this the great Greek Philosopher was contributing his quota to the enlightenment campaign against suicide.

We all should join this train at different levels and seasons. We must remember that each of us is our brethren’s keeper.

We all belong to the human family and therefore should watch over each other.

Suicide attempts succeed severally because either due to ignorance or negligence.

The Significant Orders of the victim were insensitive to the symptoms.

These include; overt signs like –verbalised desire to die, placing curses on self, expressing of despair, hopelessness and helplessness.

The covert symptoms include, withdrawal from others, loneliness, listlessness, secretive tendencies and gloominess.

All these symptoms confirm that depression has a strong correlation with suicide.

The knowledge of these suicide symptoms will help friends and family members to prevent the occurrence of suicide.

The opening quote of this article credited to Ghandi underscores the crucial role of developing an optimistic attitude about life, particularly during pessimistic, challenging and difficult circumstances.

Truly, the Holy Writ confirms this fact that “A merry heart does good like medicine: but a broken spirit dries the bone”.

Consequently one of the successful strategies to handle suicide is to be optimistic, humorous and joyful about life events.

I conclude this discourse by referring to the words of Author Milley, who said that, “A suicide kills two people…”

He kills himself and his loved ones who live to regret their inability to stop the ignoble act of suicide. Suicide is an evil wind that inflicts havoc on everybody.

Therefore, let us arise individually and corporately to prevent this monster from destroying lives and dreams of people.

• Dr. Amaraegbu wrote from Lagos
He can be contracted at drpassy@yahoo.com


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