Suicide: Mental illness, depression, and religion are driving the increase – Psychotherapist

Prof. Monday Igwe, Director, of Federal Neuropsychiatrist Hospital, Enugu, has revealed that at least one person commits suicide every 40 seconds around the world as a result of mental issues, which properly explains the rise in suicide cases in Nigeria.

Igwe’s admission at an Amaudo Integrated Community Mental Health Foundation training for media practitioners in Abia State has created a fresh chapter in the debate.

The conference sought not only to raise awareness of Nigerians’ mental health but also to bring the attention of governments at all levels to the issues faced by those living with mental illness.

He grieved that mental illness was becoming more prevalent in society as a result of stress, tobacco use, drunkenness, cocaine, tramadol, and caffeine misuse, among other factors.

He also denounced many Nigerians’ attitudes toward those with mental illnesses, which ranged from prejudice to sexual abuse, extortion, and exploitation. Suicide has always resulted from the interaction of these causes.

Suicides have grown so widespread in Nigeria for some time now that the tale is the same from north to south, east to west. People from all social levels are affected by the epidemic, including the poor, the wealthy, the educated, the semi-illiterate, the illiterate, the employed, and the jobless.

Many Nigerians have attempted or committed suicide in the last two months, yet many of them have gone undetected.

As heinous as suicide is, the scourge appears to be spreading nearly on a daily basis. Apart from the well-known Guyana disaster, in which over 900 individuals supposedly committed themselves at the suggestion of their leader, Jim Jones, people are thought to choose suicide when they are completely despondent and despairing.

Jim Jones, often known as ‘The Mad Messiah,’ was the leader of the People’s Temple cult. He urged his followers that there was no reason to exist on Earth anymore and that they should commit themselves and go to heaven. They all committed suicide by drinking a toxic chemical. He, too, drank the chemical and died as a result.

Salako Treasure, a 100-level student at Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife, Osun State, reportedly killed herself on Wednesday, June 14, by swallowing a substance thought to be a sharpshooter.

On Wednesday evening, she was discovered dead inside an unfinished building in the Lagere neighborhood of town, with a bottle of sniper beside her body.

Before the unfortunate incident, she had been through considerable emotional hardship, which some of her friends and acquaintances were aware of.

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Abiodun Olarewaju, the University’s Public Relations Officer, described the occurrence as “very unfortunate,” saying, “We have lost a part one student, a promising young lady to what was alleged to be suicide.”

“Although it occurred outside of campus, we are disappointed that we could lose such a person in such circumstances.” The University, led by Vice-Chancellor Professor Simeon Bamire, is disturbed that a student of that age would stoop to such behavior.

“We appeal to Nigerians to be the keepers of their brothers.” The impression we’re getting is that she struggled with depression and that many around her were aware of it. They should have referred her to an elderly person or someone who could help her with psycho-emotional concerns. We sympathize with ourselves, particularly with the parents who have lost a young lady with a promising future. I’d want to remind everyone that life is full of ups and downs.

“Emotional, psychological, and academic frustrations should not drive anyone to commit suicide.” Her remains have been evacuated, and we have notified the authorities.”

On Saturday, June 10, a female Nigerian Air Force officer simply known as George committed herself in her home at Sam Ethnan Air Force Base in Ikeja, Lagos State. She was a Master Warrant Officer with 651 Base Services Group at the time of her death.

“Master Warrant Officer George, a female Nigerian Air Force personnel serving at 651 Base Services Group, resident at block T5, Flat 8, in Sam Ethnan Air Force Base, Ikeja, reported to have committed suicide inside her room at around 1400hrs on June 10, 2023,” according to the military signal. The 3 Air Provost is attempting to remove her to 661NAFH while more inquiry is underway. This is for your consideration. Depression is real, my folks. Please do not let 9ija Wahala lead you to your death.”

On the same day, Usman Goga, a 30-year-old photographer, was reported to have hanged himself inside his bedroom in Babura Local Government Area, Jigawa State.

According to the article, the incident occurred just four months after Goga’s marriage. When his wife arrived home following a visit to her family, she discovered his lifeless body.

“Investigation into the incident revealed that a bedside drawer was used on top of a 6′ by 6′ sized bed to reach the ceiling, where the hook was fixed, and the rope tied to it,” said Adamu Shehu, spokesman for the Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps. The nightstand drawer was then pushed off with legs, possibly to dislodge or dangle the body from the hook.

“Close associates of the deceased revealed that he had an inherent mental disorder that manifested itself on occasion.” He had recently married his wife and was living happily with her till the sad incident. “Further investigation is underway.”

Major U.J Undianyede, a former Battalion Commanding Officer who led the fight against Boko Haram in the North East, was also reported to have committed suicide on May 19.

He was accused of committing suicide less than 72 hours before the verdict of a court-martial for supposed military breaches during the war.

However, according to one source, 79 persons, 70 males, and 9 females, committed suicide in Nigeria alone in 2022. This figure only includes reported cases, implying that many suicides in 2022 went unreported.

According to the report’s breakdown, Lagos State had the most suicides, with 12 occurrences.

Oyo State had ten points, Kano State had four, Anambra State had three, Edo State had three, Delta State had three, Ogun State had three, and Rivers State had three. Borno, Bayelsa, Abia, Benue, Imo, Enugu, Niger, Jos, Jigawa, Kaduna, Kwara, and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Abuja each had two incidents. Each of the following states had one case: Ondo, Osun, Kebbi, Nasarawa, Gombe, Cross-River, Kogi, Adamawa, Ekiti, Bauchi, and Yobe.

Some Nigerians believe that the cause of suicide is a spiritual factor. Those who hold this viewpoint believe that the majority of persons who commit suicide are constantly urged to do so by an invisible voice within them.

There are stories that some persons who had the fortitude to tell someone about these unusual voices survived, while those who tried to bear the torments secretly always committed suicide.

Some argue that suicide can also take the form of extreme egotism and selfishness, in which case people who cannot accept defeat or who cannot bear the thought of others being better than them, as well as those who are hungry for public adulation and adoration, become suicidal.

However, some believe that the majority of suicides involve a psychological component.

Dr. Leonard Okonkwo, a Consultant Psychologist at the Lagos State University Teaching Hospital in Ikeja, is one of many who believe depression is still the leading cause of suicide.

He argued that man is driven by a fundamental principle that causes him to seek pleasure and avoid pain.

“So, when a man begins to seek the inverse, such as seeking death, this becomes abnormal.” That is to say, suicide is not an accident, but a planned effort by an individual to end his or her own life, which contradicts what drives man: the desire for pleasure and the avoidance of pain. As a result, it is unusual,” he stated.

So, what motivates people to commit suicide?

Okonkwo attributed suicide to despondency and acute psychological suffering linked with the incident.

“At that point, the person believes that the only way out of the pain is death, and they commit suicide,” he continued.

Okonkwo used a three-dimensional approach to suicide proposed by renowned Psychiatrist Carl Meninger to make his case.

“Where there is a desire to kill, there is a sense of hatred or vengeance.” There is a sense of melancholy and hopelessness, as well as a want to die and a sense of guilt, as well as a desire to be killed. “As a result, there is an interrelationship among the three dimensions that eventually lead to suicide,” he explained.

He also attempted to distinguish between suicide and intentional self-harm, which he believed may lead to suicide.

“There is a difference between suicide and deliberate self-harm,” he explained. The three characteristics are present in suicide, but with deliberate self-harm, the individual engaged does not want to die; he merely wants to bring attention to himself.

“As a result, he purposefully harms himself in order to attract attention.” There may be a suicide note and such, but the main goal is to garner attention, not to kill oneself.

“However, when deliberate self-harm is excessive, it can lead to suicide.” Not all suicides are intended to kill; some are planned self-harm that has gone too far.”

Although he feels depression is the leading cause of suicide, mental diseases are not excluded. He defined mental illness as a type of depression, despite the fact that some mental illnesses are not part of depression but are highly significant causes of suicide.

He added that depression could also manifest as bodily pains as a result of a long sickness.

“For example, someone suffering from physical pain as a result of illness may become depressed and wish to commit suicide.” He may want euthanasia (mercy killing), but when no one is willing to help, he takes an overdose of drugs and kills himself.

“People can also commit suicide after a failed relationship, which is a case of depression leading to hopelessness.”

“People who are isolated or ostracized in a community are more likely to commit suicide.” And society will think the gods killed the individual, but the truth is that isolation or ostracism caused sadness and, as a result, hopelessness, leading the person to believe that suicide was the only way out,” he said.

Religion is another powerful factor that might contribute to suicide.

Using the Guyana tragedy and the Islamist outfit Boko Haram as examples. “Religion is another reason people commit suicide, especially when their leaders command them to do so,” Okonkwo remarked.

“For example, the Guyana tragedy, in which Jim Jones led his congregation of approximately 900 people to commit suicide, is a good example of religious suicide.” He informed them that when they died, they would go to paradise because the world was unfit for them to live in. It’s the same with Boko Haram suicide bombers. They are also brainwashed into believing that if they die waging religious wars, they would go to heaven and be married to virgins.”

“It is also known that suicide may be more common in some tribes or that there may be some biological link,” added the psychologist. However, because mental disease has a biological or hereditary basis, that link may also be related to it.

“People who are prone to depression and have previously committed suicide may pass the same trait down to the next generation.”

“In other words, if someone has committed suicide in a particular family due to depression, there is every chance that a descendant of that family will suffer from depression and commit suicide in the future.” As a result, it appears to have minimal genetic consequence, just as it does in mental disease.”

He investigated the impact of urbanization on suicide.

He argues that the Western way of life, brought about by urbanization, has weakened traditional social support, leaving the unsatisfied with little choice but to commit suicide, especially if the individual does not want to go into crime.

He contended that, given the current economic hardships afflicting many Nigerians, as well as the previously mentioned religious and political considerations, there is every chance that more people may commit suicide as a way out of the bad situation.

He urged the government to take immediate and drastic actions to alleviate people’s suffering in order to reverse the negative trend.

“The government can achieve this by providing social security safety nets as well as improving the economy through massive job creation and other measures,” he said.


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