By Chioma Umeha
The recent trend of depression-induced suicide reached a new level in Nigeria weekend, when a doctor jumped off the Third Mainland bridge into the lagoon. The man reportedly ordered his driver to stop the vehicle, dashed out of the car, and made for the lagoon while his driver was still trying to come to terms with the sudden behaviour that had come over his otherwise calm boss.
The report of the doctor’s suicide is the second report of such in under 42 hours after a final year student of the Ladoke Akinola University of Technology, Ogbomoso, committed suicide in the early hours of Saturday March 18.
Also, a day after the 35-year-old medical doctor committed suicide by jumping into the lagoon at the Third Mainland Bridge, another of such incidents was recorded when a woman jumped into the lagoon in the Maza-Maza area of Lagos State.
Though the unidentified woman was lucky as the timely intervention of local fishermen and divers in the area rescued her before she could drown, experts have expressed worry over the rising trend in depression and its consequences.
They have therefore urged the Federal Government to take urgent steps to address the current economic challenges in the country, to check the rate of suicide among Nigerians.
The World Health Organisation reports that every 40 seconds, one person commits suicide somewhere in the world, which tallies to 800,000 suicides annually.
The experts noted that in the last few months in Nigeria, cases of suicide that came to public knowledge had increased and stressed the need for increased government attention in reducing the problem.
Dr Stephen Oluwaniyi, a Consultant Psychiatrist at the Federal Neuro-Psychiatric Hospital, Yaba, identified poverty, high debt, deprivations, unemployment, job stress and insecurity as related to the current economic challenges in Nigeria.
Oluwaniyi said that the recession was affecting the mental health of some Nigerians, adding that it had also triggered high cases of depression, attempted suicide and other forms of mental illnesses.
He, however, advised members of the public not to be silent about their emotional and psychological problems but seek help from mental health experts.
A Clinical Psychologist, Mr. Nathaniel Ayodeji of the Mental Health Foundation, said that suicide had a lot of underlying factors such as feelings of pain, loss, depression, broken relationships and hopelessness.
Ayodeji said that although suicide was regarded as a despicable act in the nation’s culture, many people had been forced into the act as a result of frustration, economic pressures and sense of hopelessness.
“This social problem is a threat to the future of our country and the government needs to act immediately by fixing the economy before the situation goes out of control, ” Ayodeji said.
Rev. Fr. Albert Ebosele of the Holy Family Catholic Church, Sokoto state, called on parents, families, relations, neighbours to watch out and observe others.
This he said was necessary to prevent sudden behavioural changes that might lead to suicide.
“The government, family, institution and individuals can save the situation. We should observe our environment and be watchful of people living around us.
“The government and orientation agencies should develop orientation campaigns and counseling in schools, markets, workplace, to advocate change and impart on peoples’ behaviour.
“People should look up to God and seek His help instead of ending their lives,’’ he said.
Also, Dr Bolanle Ajayi, a Psychiatrist at the Federal Neuro- Psychiatrist Hospital, Yaba, advised Nigerians to adopt proper income planning and management of their emotions.
The precautionary measures he said became necessary to prevent the high rate of mental illness which could be due to the current economic recession in the country.
“No doubt about it, there is economic recession going on in our country and a lot of people are being affected.
“Even in our wards now, we see a lot of people coming down with depressive illness, suicide, depression, deliberate self-harm and by the time we look at the primary cause of these illnesses, it is actually this ongoing recession.
“Some people are psychologically affected, socially affected and emotionally affected.
“Some people have the ability to bring it out and get over it while some of us do not have such abilities.
“However, the general advice to the public in this economic recession is that, you do your beat, whatever you earn, you have to plan.
“The era of I spend the money immediately the money comes is gone.
“The era we are now is, when the money comes you sit down on a roundtable in your house and do a proper plan on your money.This is because you don’t know when another one will come in.”
Commenting on the medical doctor, Dr. Allwell Orji, who recently committed suicide by jumping into a Lagos lagoon, Abiodun Adewuya, a professor of psychiatry at the Lagos State University Teaching Hospital (LASUTH) and a psychiatrist, said: “The problem is what we have been saying that challenges and any little thing can make people take their lives.”
Dr Charles Umeh, a senior lecturer, Lagos University Teaching Hospital (LUTH), Idi Araba, said that many factors could be responsible for such occurrences, adding that they might be unexpressed depression that people might not notice and victim relapses from talking to people.
Umeh said economic downturn or disaster can also be responsible for this kind of action.
He said: “If you look at the depressed economy making people to lose their jobs or sources of income that can lead people to committing suicide.
“Personality characteristics, some people have low tolerance for stress, so whenever they have problems they cannot cope, they feel overwhelmed and frustrated. Such people worry too much over things and this could lead them to start feeling hopeless and helpless, the result is to start thinking of suicide.
“Some other people could be hearing voices –hallucinatory experiences, that is auditory hallucination either commanding them to do certain things or running derogatory commentary about their activities. Some of them actually obey those voices telling them to jump out of a moving car or into a river or even to do more terrible things.”
Medical experts explained to Independent that auditory hallucinations are false perceptions of sound, describing them as the experience of internal words or noises that have no real origin in the outside world and are perceived to be separate from the person’s mental processes.
They said that a common form of auditory hallucination involves hearing one or more talking voices. This, they agreed, may be associated with psychotic disorders, and holds special significance in diagnosing these conditions.