Real reasons Nigerian youths are committing suicide
They had lofty dreams about life and looked into the future with great expectations. They never thought life could defeat them, so they worked hard and hoped they would win all life’s battles. They loved and were loved by others in return and life was indeed good and joyful.
But soon, their dreams began to fade and depression crawled in; hope gave way to despair while sadness took the place of joy in their hearts. Then came the chiming of death; they raced unto it and that was the end of it all. But they left sore notes in their biographies, pains in the hearts of those that loved them and loads of questions for those who didn’t even know them but heard about their horrid ends.
Such are the accounts of some Nigerian youths who took their own lives in the recent past in a final effort to escape from life’s struggles. In the last four weeks alone, there are about four reported cases of suicide by youths, some of who announced their intentions to take their own lives on the social media before actually committing the act.
Just two days ago, the media were awash with the story of a 300-level student of Medicine and Surgery at the Faculty of Basic Medical Sciences of the Niger Delta University (NDU), Ammasoma in Southern Ijaw Local Government Area of Bayelsa State, who committed suicide for failing his examination.
The student who was identified as Uzaka Ebiweni reportedly dived into Amassoma River and drowned before help came after realising that he was among the 22 students shortlisted to be withdrawn from the college for failing the Bachelor of Medicine exams beyond the level that they could be placed on academic probation for another academic year.
Reports had it that the deceased could not absorb the disappointment that came with the news despite attending the counseling session organised by the university for the affected students before being asked to withdraw from the institution. He was said to have dropped a hint about his suicidal intention through his WhatsApp status update before actualising it.
Also, on May 15, media reports had it that 22-year-old Chukwuemeka Akachi, a final year student of the Department of English and Literary Studies at the University of Nigeria, Nsukka (UNN) committed suicide on Monday, May 13. Akachi, a native of Eha-Alumona in Nsukka Local Government Area of Enugu State, was said to have had a long battle with mental illness. It was said that the deceased had on two previous occasions drank kerosene and petrol in an attempt to kill himself but was rescued.
In a bid to make him void the thought of taking his own life, two of his lecturers were said to have taken interest in counseling him, including creating opportunities to have leisure with him whenever they noticed a slight change in his countenance. But their efforts were to no avail.
On that fateful day, Akachi was said to have appreciated one of the lecturers for taking him out before penning his suicide note and pasting it on his Facebook page. “Forgive me. In case you are the one who found the body, I am really sorry. It had to be someone, you know. I have chosen Jo Nketaih’s poem as my suicide note: ‘They said you came looking for me. I didn’t drown; I was the water.’ Where do atheists go to when they die? lol. Amen,” he wrote.
Afterwards, he went to an uncompleted building on Sullivan Road, Nsukka, and drank two bottles of ‘Sniper’, a deadly insecticide, and slipped into coma. Some passersby, mainly students, discovered him and raised the alarm before he was rushed to the UNN Federal Medical Centre and later to University of Nigeria Teaching Hospital, Ituku Ozalla, Enugu, where he was confirmed dead by doctors on duty.
The story of a 17-year-old boy identified as Amos Ibrahim who committed suicide in Jos, Plateau State, by drinking Sniper also hit the headlines on May 14. According to reports, Ibrahim chose to toe the dangerous path after failing the 2019 Unified Tertiary Matriculation Examinations (UTME). He was reportedly schooling at the University of Nations, a Christian university with branches in 600 locations in 142 countries but was withdrawn by his mother who feared he could end up being a pastor. He subsequently wrote the 2019 UTME in a bid to secure admission into a regular university in the country but failed. As a result, he suffered depression and drank Sniper leading to his death as efforts to save his life at the hospital failed.
There was also a report on May 4 that one Kenile Nwabuzor, a resident of Fadaunsi Street, Ijeshatedo, Lagos State, killed herself following protracted disagreements between her and her boyfriend identified as David.Reports had it that the 26-year-old hairdresser had endured an unhealthy relationship with his boyfriend simply identified as David since they met about two years ago and decided to commit suicide after David reportedly said he was no longer interested in the relationship.
Shortly before the incident, she was said to have sent a text message to her boyfriend, lamenting he had made life miserable for her and that she would soon kill herself.
A student of the University of Port Harcourt (UNIPORT), Olaitan Gbadamosi, 18, also joined her ancestors in the same way. She was reportedly found dead in her apartment at Omuoko Community, Aluu Clan, Ikwerre Local Government Area of Rivers State on April 30, this year. The late Olaitan, a 100-level student of Chemical Engineering, had celebrated her matriculation into the institution two weeks before her death. The victim had allegedly committed suicide following alleged depression. She reportedly posted a short video clip of herself crying and muttering some words two days before the incident. Reports further had it that two days after she was not seen by anybody, her friends who were worried that she was missing classes and tests, broken into her room and found a can of Sniper lying beside her almost decomposing body.
A case of attempted suicide by a 2019 UTME candidate in Ogun State was also reported on May 13. The candidate is identified as Segun reportedly attempted suicide by drinking Sniper after he discovering that he scored 167 in the exams. He was reportedly infuriated that he would lose the chance to acquire tertiary education, which a kind Nigerian had offered him. The offer had come after he narrated the story of his life on his Twitter handle @TweetsOfSHEGUN, on October 4, 2018, where he explained how he lost his father at six and his mother had to cater to four children alone.
Reports said that after reading his pathetic story, a Twitter user, Pamilerin Adegoke, was touched and decided to put Segun on a scholarship and pay all his university bills till he graduates. But unfortunately for him, he failed the 2019 UTME exams. Before attempting to commit suicide, he tweeted: “2015 -189; 2016 – 202; 2017 – 233. It is now when people want to send me to school that I will score 167 in UTME? 167? LMFAO. Make I close eyes pick answers sef…Me? 167? Meanwhile, I will be teaching you all how to make tea with Sniper by 9pm live on Twitter…Tune in. This thing go sweet oo. You all should at least make it fun for me by 9pm pls. Tune in and wish me luck.” And he did it. However, he was lucky as his friends discovered that he made good his threat and quickly rushed him to the hospital where he was recuperating.
The preponderance of cases of suicide indicates that a once abominable act is being fancied among Nigerian youths. Otherwise, how could four Nigerians kill themselves in a space of four weeks over issues the older generation weathered through without somewhat expressing discomfort? Faced with the ugly development, the question on the lips of concerned stakeholders is: What has gone wrong with Nigeria’s millennials?
A lecturer in the Department of Sociology, University of Lagos, Dr. Pius Adejoh identified three factors. He told The Guardian, in an interview, that the spate of suicide among the youths was a reflection of the level of moral decadence in the country.
His words: “The issue of suicide by Nigerian youths is a deep cause for concern coming from the backdrop that in most cultures of this country, suicide is regarded as an abomination. Suicide is something that is never thought of. So, that it is becoming a trend raises cause for concern.
“I would say that what we see today in the form of suicide is indeed a reflection of the level of decadence morally that this nation has sunk into. The decay is at virtually every level beginning from the family. You know that the family provides the buffer for the individual. If you are traumatised from outside, you go home in the hope that there is a place for solace, comfort and succour. Today, it is very doubtful if our families are still playing that fundamental role. There is a pervasive abandonment of the members of the family by others. The parents clearly appear to have given up on their responsibilities towards their children. They think that responsibility is limited to making financial provision for the children. They think that responsibility is limited to putting them in the best schools. The psychological and emotional reinforcement that is derived from one-on-one interaction with them is lacking. And to the extent that these children don’t have the benefit of all these, they are isolated and individualised. That’s one reason I think suicide is on the increase among today’s youths.
“The other one is that in the absence of the family fulfilling its role, the foreign influence on our young people is not mediated by anybody. The government is not mediating the global culture that our people are exposed to. I am not sure of any institution that regulates what our children are exposed to. The bottom-line is that they internalise the values, practices and cultures they see in other climes. In Europe for instance, suicide used to be much more frequent than in Africa. Now, our people because they do not have the foundation to say ‘this is wrong, this is right’, as they copy the positives from Europe, they also copy the negatives. And the fact is that we copy more of the negatives than even the positives. So, we are not ruling out the influence of the global culture.
“Now, the social media, for instance, harps on virtual relationships. It has created even more distance from among members of the same family. You see husband and wife in the house not talking to each other because they are engrossed in the social media. You don’t know whatever their discussion would be. So, to a large extent, the unregulated social media in Nigerian environment is also contributing in creating isolation. You know there is cyber bullying. So, the social media much as it has positive values, when unregulated and uncontrolled at the family level, can also be a basis for disaffection, isolation and individualism all of which combine to predispose people to taking the kind of actions that are detrimental as we are seeing in the case of suicide.
“Again, the average young man in Nigeria today is exposed to an unprecedented level of pressure relative to what his contemporary in the past was exposed to. Those days, before you even finish from school, there was a job waiting. I’m not sure you needed to sit for JAMB time and again before you got admission. Competition is getting keener and harder; opportunities are diminishing by the day. And it is getting to this young people. So, it is a complexity of issues that come to play in the decision of young people to either decide to take their lives or do what is unacceptable socially.”
Adejoh advised against thinking that the problem with the youths is that they have a sense of entitlement to their pursuits, saying it all boils down to faulty orientation and socialisation.“You call it entitlement mentality, but I think it’s faulty orientation and socialisation. The type of rigour you went through to get to where you are, you are not exposing your children to such today. As a primary school pupil, I went to the stream three or four times every morning before going to school. When I come back from school, I went to the farm and did other things. Today, are you exposing your children to those kinds of upbringing? And you say it is entitlement mentality? You created them in the first instance. If you took them through that route of socialisation to realise that life is not as simple as they thought, I’m not sure that they will take the path they are following.
What are we doing as parents to raise them up to have that kind of thick skin to go through the mill to succeed? Today, we hear that parents are aiding children to compromise exams. Did your father do that for you? Your father made sure that you stood on your feet from day one and you knew that life was a battle you must win. Today, you are padding your children all over and you expect them to be able to endure. I’m not sure it’s the children you blame; I still blame us. In sociology, we say that a child came clean when he was born. It is what society writes on the table of his heart that translates into his actions and personality. What are we writing? What provisions are we making? What orientations are we giving? I think we should take responsibility for what is happening to them.”
On her part, the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Therapy Consult, Lagos, Salem Pat Ogulowo, identified depression and unresolved grief as the major causes of suicide among the youths.
A United Kingdom trained mental health psychotherapist and grief counsellor, said it was disheartening when she returned home two years ago and discovered that Nigerians, who once loved life and detested suicide, had started taking their own lives, including youths.
Her words: “No child in his right senses would want to terminate his/her own life. The social media is an influence; no doubt about it. But you see, there is nothing good about depression. It’s something that when it’s there, you go to bed feeling good and the next morning you just find out that you are not yourself. Depression that becomes clinical craves death i.e. suicidal adulation and then suicide itself. And the route to depression is unresolved grief. May be somebody you look up to suddenly died and you just feel that your life cannot go on. Unresolved grief could also arise from anger, abuse, bullying, and peer pressure which the youths are facing these days.
They are looking at the celebrities; they are looking at the western world and want to belong. They have somebody that they idolise and want to look like. Majority of them are also looking for validation. You find out that wanting to meet parents’ dreams like excellent performance in schools also puts the youths under a lot of pressure. These are all issues that come up with the youth these days and some of them on finding out that they cannot attain them get depressed and then commit suicide. Relationship break up could also lead to unresolved grief. Some of them can’t stand the shame that comes with it and they may just decide to take their lives.”
Asked what pushes the youths to announce their plans to commit suicide on the social media before going ahead to actualise it, Ogulowo said: “it is not something that they desire but the depression has gotten into them and because they have not found somebody to open up to, the social media becomes where they voice it.”
On the way out of the problem, he explained that both parents and government have roles to play. “At the individual level, can you give up some of the things you are chasing and be more available for your child, because in the real sense of it, you don’t really need those things you are chasing. We must redefine what we want. Are you going to be available raise these ones in a manner that tomorrow you can look back and be happy or you will abandon them and chase those things that will make society think that you are a success? So, at the individual level you must make up your mind as to what your values are, what you want in life.
“At institutional level, do they have to go through all they are going through to get admission? And that is where the government comes in. You know one of them reportedly committed suicide after failing JAMB. Is government planning for these children? Government is not planning for them. So, they feel abandoned. Some of those ones who did not commit suicide will ultimately join Boko Haram, kidnapping gangs or engage in other crimes because they feel frustrated. So, you will not treat suicide as an isolate issue. We cry about suicide because it’s capital but the question is where are we going. So, can we plan for these ones?”
Ogulowo also believes that curbing the tide requires the collective efforts of parents, schools and government.“Moving forward, I believe that it’s a collective effort. I was not just my mother’s child alone growing up. I belonged to the community that I grew up in. So, a neighbour who saw me doing something wrong didn’t just go and report me to my mother but took action. But these days, you find out that parents are just too protective of their children, even to the extent of warning teachers against disciplining their children. This makes the children feel too independent. So, that excessive protection by parents is a contributing factor and that has to change.
“I also think that as parents we should learn to befriend our children. We should learn to study them, know their moods and their body language. These youths who committed suicide didn’t just wake up one morning to do it. It’s been in motion. It is something that they took time to plan. So, parents who allow their children to enjoy that so-called independence should ask their children the difficult questions that most of us are running from.
“When you notice that a child is moody, deeply sad, withdrawn or is either gaining weight or losing weight, ask the difficult question. And what is the difficult question? The difficult question is: Are you planning to take your own life? Asking that question would make the child feel that somebody already knows about the plan and that could make them to abandon the plot,” Ogulowo said.
She added: “Also, the government should establish a suicide prevention hotline. They have this overseas and I think we need one in this country right now. Life can be saved through that. The government should also attach psychotherapists to hospitals and clinics. Most individuals who display psychological illnesses or issues are often medicalised. That is where people like us come in because some of them don’t require any medicine. A lot of them just want somebody who will listen to them, somebody they can trust and confide in. I know schools these days have counsellors. Also, teachers and counsellors in our schools should join the parents in asking the difficult question when they notice a child behaving abnormally. Teachers should no longer look away because of the abuses that come from some parents.”
‘Hard Time Is No Excuse To Want To Commit Suicide’
By Tobi Awodipe, Maria Diamond (Lagos), Abiodun Fagbemi (Ilorin), Charles Ogugbuaja (Owerri), Tina Todo (Calabar), Osiberoha Osibe (Awka) and Abdulganiyu Alabi (Kaduna)
YOUTHS from across the country who had contemplated suicide shared their experiences with The Guardian. Some of them also gave insight into why suicide is increasingly becoming popular among the millennial. Segun (surname withheld), who had attempted suicide, told The Guardian that he took the decision because life had been very difficult since he left school. “I graduated from university five years ago and went for youth service immediately after. Since completing youth service, I have not been able to get a job despite the fact that I finished with a Second Class Upper. I am the first born of my family and my aged parents are looking up to me for support. Last year, I attempted travelling out of the country with the hope of getting something doing overseas. Unfortunately, I was duped. After this experience, I wanted to kill myself. I actually attempted it but even with that again, I wasn’t successful. I haven’t been able to get a job, make a living, support my aged parents or myself. This country is extremely difficult but I refuse to take to crime as my mates are doing,” he lamented.
A student of computer science at one of the nation’s federal polytechnics who identified himself simply as Francis said he had also haboured suicide thoughts in the past. “I had thought of killing myself a couple of times but I have never actually tried to do it. There are so many pressures around us, with the main one being the desire to make money. You see your mates living large, spending money and so on and even if you do not want to feel pressured, it creeps on you without you knowing. One time when I was feeling very depressed, my friend introduced me to yahoo-yahoo (cyber fraud) as a means to keep busy and make money but we had a falling out and I abandoned it completely.
“People might want to take their lives for different reasons, maybe due to educational failure, relationship failure, sickness, depression and so on. Mine was due to financial issues I was going through especially as I had nobody to help me. I was very frustrated and depressed but thank God I have moved past that stage now.”
As for Folake (surname withheld), the collapse of her relationship nearly led her to suicide. “My relationship of four years that I thought was heading to the altar was called off by my boyfriend for no reason. I pleaded with him, sent people to beg, apologised even when I knew I didn’t do anything wrong but he refused to change his mind. I thought if I tried to kill myself, he would come back but he didn’t. So many of us are unhappy with life and looking for how to escape. After trying drugs, what would be coming to your mind is suicide,” she noted.
The narrative of 21-year-old Precious (surname withheld) is nauseating: “When I was 18-year-old, I attempted committing suicide but my saving grace was our house help. She walked into my room at the exact time I poured 20-tablets of antidepressants into my hands. I wanted to dissolve the drugs in a glass of water for easy consumption but she ran to me and hit the drugs off my hands. She screamed and my siblings came to my room; they picked the drugs and discarded them. My parents were not around. When they called them, they rushed back home; my mum cried. She asked me all the questions in the world especially if I lacked anything and why I wanted to take my own life. My dad was upset and disappointed. Sometimes I think he still he is because he never said a word about it till date. At the mid-night, my mum asked why I did it. I felt I needed to open up to her because of the pain I saw in her eyes. I said my dad refused to buy me a car for my 18th birthday, which was held six months after I attempted suicide and I was depressed about it.
“I wanted the car because my girlfriend’s father already promised her a car for her 18th birthday which was the same day I attempted killing myself. She called me to tell me that her dad got her the car and asked me to come take a ride around with her but I couldn’t. My pride was bruised, she kept calling and I refused taking my calls. So, she sent an SMS that triggered something I still can’t explain in me and I went for the drugs.”
According to David Eshilama (not real name), an accounting graduate from the University of Ilorin, “lack of prospect and future security” could not be divorced from the high rate of suicide among the youths. “I am of the view that government should look the ways of the youths especially on the need to cater for them after school. What else do they want the youths to do after they had struggled to study but have no jobs to do?
“There must be a deliberate policy that will bridge that gap. The youths are the future leaders of this country. If there is no hope for them now and in future, then frustration can set in. From there, they may contemplate suicide,” he observed. A youth in Imo State, Okechukwu Ibe, also attributed the rising cases of suicide among youths to hunger and unemployment.
“Unless the factors that increase sufferings in the land are addressed, such issues that distress and frustrate people to take to suicide as last option to leave the world will continue,” Ibe said.Another student in Owerri, Joy Anozie, urged the states and the Federal Government to convene a summit of youths that would vent their views on the way forward in order to end such suicide missions.
“I am of the view that since the problem of frustration and hardship are primary factors, governments must show concern and sensitivity in addressing them,” she opined.To Joe Akuta, a youth that lives on menial jobs, there is no justifiable reason for anyone to commit suicide. “There are many empowerment programmes to upgrade competenc and capacity. Why not explore them? Gradually, you reach your goal in life. The option cannot be suicide if things are going wrong. Lean on God and pursue things positively when things are going wrong.” he posited.
In her views, Ramat Yaman, an undergraduate of Kwara State University (KWASU), Malete, said most of the suicide cases were linked with broken homes and marriages. “Anyone who has no moral credibility will not see any reason to endure life when things are not going his or her ways. Moral rectitude must be upheld just as parents should do more in the area of upbringing their children,” she noted.
A final year student of Mass Communication at Cross River State University of Technology (CRUTECH), Fidelis Ojeka, said: “Most times, psychological or emotional problem can cause youth and teenagers to commit suicide. When one is depressed and have no one to talk to about their needs or worries they resort to suicide.”
Speaking in the same vain, Janet Stephen, said failure and pressure were major reasons some youths take their lives. But she also condemned the act saying: “There is no genuine reason a youth should commit suicide. Life is a journey full of ups and downs and it takes only the brave to sail through. And every youth out there should be optimistic and believe that tomorrow will be better through hard work.”
A student of University of Calabar (UNICAL), Mary-Grace Anyafulu, who said life is sweet and precious for anyone to end it with his/her own hands said poor knowledge of how to handle intricate situations or anger push some youths to commit suicide.
“Most of them don’t have people that will sit them down and talk sense into them. And again, people like that don’t like sharing their problems or what is troubling them to other people.
“Parents have some of these blames to share. Some parents ignore their children. They don’t care to know what they do or what could be troubling them. All they want is for their child to come out as the best or to be what they want them to be. Every child wants to impress his/her parents in one way or the other and this could also push them to commit suicide,” she noted.
A jobless youth in Anambra State, Chike Nwandu, undercored frustration and depression as the major reasons for the rise in suicide cases among youths. “Nigerians are suffering and it does appear that our leaders are happy with the plight of the commoners.”
Senior Special Assistant (SSA) to Governor Willie Obiano on Digital Entrepreneurship and Youth Development also attributed resort to suicide among youths to frustration, anger and depression. He urged youths to embrace self-development or empowerment, see opportunities in challenges and know their destination in life to overcome conditions that lead to suicide.
Commenting on the death of a 200-level student of Quantity Survey at Ahmadu Bello University (ABU), Zaria, Samuel Iyanuohere Felabita, on May 18, this year, who allegedly committed suicide by consuming an acidic substance, a student of the institution who pleaded anonymity, also said frustration was the major cause of suicide among youths. He sighted example of Aisha Omolola, another 300-level student of Mass Communication in the institution that committed suicide in December last year, saying: “She claimed she did not enjoy parental love and things were difficult for her. So, she committed suicide to punish her parents.”
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