Lagos Worries Over Increasing Suicide Rate

..Will Soon Commence Depression Treatment In 57 PHCs

By Chioma Umeha
Worried about the increasing rate of suicide in the state, the Lagos State Government has rolled out new plans to tackle the menace, even as it said that the current recession has made mental condition a public health concern.
Announcing this to journalists on Friday was Dr. Jide Idris, the Commissioner of Health, who also said the State Government will soon start treatment of depression and other common mental health disorders in all 57 flagship primary healthcare (PHC) centres.
He spoke at the press conference to mark the World Health Day, with the theme: “Depression: Let’s Talk.”
Idris stressed that the growing cases of suicide in Lagos was worrisome and that efforts must be made to nip it in the bud.
“As evidenced by the recent disturbing news of suicide and suicidal attempts, a densely populated and metropolitan city- state like Lagos is not exempt from the challenges associated with increasing prevalence of depression and other mental health issues. The current recession even makes the experience in Nigeria a public health concern at a time when joblessness, homelessness, and hopelessness affect so many with the current economic downturn,” he stated.
Depression, a mental disorder is a major cause of suicide.
Statistics released by the World Health Organisation (WHO) shows that 300 million people are now living with depression, an increase of more than 18 per cent between 2005 and 2015.
Depression is chacterised by sadness, loss of interest or pleasure, feelings of guilt or low self-worth, disturbed sleep or appetite, feelings of tiredness, and poor concentration.
Similarly, depression is a leading cause of disability worldwide and a major contributor to overall burden of disease.
In view of the growing and worrisome suicide events that have occurred, the State Government considers it necessary to inform the populace about suicide and the common causes with depression being the first on the list, “So, we must talk,” Idris emphasised.
To this effect, the State has opened two help lines – 08058820777 and 09030000741 – through which residents can ask questions, make enquiries and seek help from professionals early enough to allow for appropriate intervention, the Lagos State Health boss announced.
“I must stress that there are people available to help. So, “Let’s Talk” …if you are a student, “Let’s Talk”, if you are parent, “Let’s Talk”, You feel alone in the world,” Let’s Talk.” Please be assured that Lagos State is committed to ensure the Public Health safety of all its residents and we are working to ensure that we live safe and healthy lives, as we chase our dreams and work towards self-actualisation,” he restated.
“Suicide is a major public health concern, but preventable. It does not discriminate, thus affecting people of all ages, genders and ethnicities. Main risk factors include depression, other mental disorders including substance abuse disorder.
“Many suicides occur in moments of crisis with a breakdown in the ability to deal with life stresses such as financial problems, relationship breakup or chronic pain and illness.
“In addition, experiencing conflict, disaster, violence, abuse or loss and a sense of isolation are strongly associated with suicidal behaviour. Suicide rates are also high among vulnerable groups who experience discrimination, such as refugees and migrants and prisoners,” he added.
The Commissioner added: “Depression can impair an individual’s ability to function at work or school or cope with daily life. In its most severe form, depression can lead to suicide.
However, Idris restated that depression can be prevented or managed.
According to him, the current situation calls for a change in the attitudes that perpetuate stigma and discrimination that have isolated people in the past. ”
“The cases of suicide in the state have further substantiated that mental health deserves much higher strategic priority and it is a signal with an articulate and unified voice behind it.”
On mental health, the commissioner said the ministry had established a Mental Health Advisory/Stakeholders’ Group to conduct a situation analysis, proffer innovative solutions and map out an implementation plan for reducing the burden of mental health problems in Lagos.
He said the group was made up of academics, policy makers, NGOs, researchers, clinicians and service users, with the department of Behavioural Medicine, LASUCOM forming the core of the think – tank team to bridge the gap.
“Following this, the Ministry of Health in collaboration with the Department of Behavioural Medicine, Ministry of Youth and Social Development and the Ministry of Justice are working on repealing and replacing the existing Mental Health Law to meet current global realities.
“We now have a draft of the new Mental Health Bill. This bill is presently at an advanced stage, with renewed efforts, the law should be presented as an executive bill to the Lagos State House of Assembly soon.”
On his part, a Consultant Psychiatrist at the Lagos State University Teaching Hospital, LASUTH, Prof. Abiodun Adewuya said: “Per week in Lagos State University Teaching Hospital, LASUTH, we have nothing less than 2 to 3 mentally ill destitute that are picked from the streets, treated free. “For suicides, the rate seems to be high and there is focus on it now and the methodology is bizarre,” he added.