On social media platforms almost everyone has become a counselor due to the high rate of suicide among young people in Nigeria. Preaching against suicide has been intensified by young people themselves. Off the internet, where two or more youth are gathered, this abominable act is being discussed.
Suicide used to be seen by most Nigerians as a foreign thing in the past, but today, it has become a trend in the country. In a space of four weeks, there were reports of no less than five suicide cases. The question on the lips of every Nigerian is: what could be responsible for this disturbing trend?
Like never before there is awareness about suicide. Two weeks ago, there was a hash tag on twitter saying #SucideNeverAnOption. It seems like it has not helped as one person took his life while another attempted to do the same. Several times last year, we heard of people jumping into the Lagos lagoon as an end to a situation they could no longer live with.
Before this trend a lot of people only saw suicide in movies. In real life there were stories of people (Boko Haram) who strap themselves with bombs and blow up themselves in public places taking many people with them. In foreign lands there were cases of students going into schools and killing as many people as possible before ending their own lives.
This one is different and it is a new phenomenon which has nothing to do with revenge or war. According to a global survey in 2011, a 53-country Gallup poll, Nigerians were rated at 70 points for optimism and the country was ranked first as the happiest place in the world. Despite it many challenges, Nigerians were resilient. Just eight years later, Nigeria has dropped to 85 on global happiness report.
Last year, Nigeria overtook India in extreme poverty ranking, thus, becoming the poverty capital of the world. Now ending one’s life to escape from life struggles is fast becoming the order of the day. Just like an epidemic, it is spreading like wild fire.
In one month, there were about four reported cases of suicide by young Nigerians. Some even made public announcements that they would end their lives before actually committing the act. It sounded like a joke until it happened.
Last week, Uzaka Ebiweni, a 300-level student of Medicine and Surgery at the Faculty of Basic Medical Sciences of the Niger Delta University (NDU), Bayelsa State, committed suicide for failing his examination.
He dived into a river and drowned 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.
According to reports, the deceased was not mentally capable of taking the disappointment that came with the news. It was learnt that he dropped a hint about his intention through his WhatsApp status before going through with it.
On May 14, in Jos Plateau State, a story of a 17-year old Amos Ibrahim who committed suicide made the rounds. He reportedly took his life after failing the 2019 Unified Tertiary Matriculation Examinations (UTME). He was schooling at University of Nations which is a Christian university but his mother was not comfortable with him in there. She withdrew him because she felt he would become a pastor in the future. He wrote the UTME hoping to gain admission into one of the public universities but it proved abortive. The boy suffered from depression and ended his life by drinking Sniper, a deadly insecticide, which is meant for pest control.
On May 4 in Lagos, one Kenile Nwabuzor killed herself following an unending disagreement between her and her boyfriend known as David. She killed herself because her boyfriend was no longer interested in the relationship. Shortly before the incident, it was reported that she sent a text message to David complaining that he had made her life miserable and that she would commit suicide.
Also on May 13, 22-year-old Chukwuemeka Akachi, a final year student of the Department of English and Literary Studies at the University of Nigeria, Nsukka (UNN) killed himself. Akachi, who was said to have had a protracted battle with mental illness, had on two previous occasions tried to take his life by drinking kerosene and petrol.
As a result of the earlier suicide attempt, all eyes were on him. Two of his lecturers even made it a duty to counsel him almost on a daily basis and also take him out for leisure just for him to banish the thoughts of taking his life. But their efforts were in vain.
On that fateful day, the young man was said to have appreciated one of the lecturers for taking him out before penning his suicide note and posting it on his Facebook page. He wrote: “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? Lo!. Amen,” he wrote.
He later went to an uncompleted building on Sullivan Road, Nsukka, and drank two bottles of ‘Sniper,’ and slipped into coma. Some passersby found him and rushed him to the university’s teaching hospital where he was confirmed dead by doctors.
In Port Harcourt, a 100-level student Olaitan Gbadamosi who was only 18 killed herself two weeks after celebrating her matriculation. The chemical engineering student had committed suicide allegedly because of depression. Before the incident, she posted a short video clip of herself crying. She locked herself in her room and drank Sniper. Her body was found when her friend broke into the room. What they found was her almost decomposing body and a can of Sniper on the floor.
A twitter user with the handle @tweetsofShegun almost took his life for scoring a low mark in the 2019 UTME. Last year, he posted a sympathetic post on twitter saying he lost his dad when he was six years old and that his poor mother had to cater for him and his three siblings. After reading his story a twitter user named Pamilerin Adegoke offered to sponsor him through the university if he gained admission.
Unfortunately, he failed. His frustration stemmed from the fact that when he had no one to help him, he did not fail the exam. Before he attempted suicide, he wrote: “2015 – 189, 2016 – 202, 2017 – 233. It is now when people want to send me to school that I will score 167 in UTME? Even if I close my eyes to choose answers I wouldn’t score 167. Meanwhile I will be teaching you how to make tea with Sniper by 9pm. Join me live on twitter.” He friends took the threat seriously and got there quickly and rushed him to the hospital.
According to the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Therapy Consult, Lagos, Ms. Salem Pat Ogulowo, depression and unresolved grief are the major causes of suicide among the youths. “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 is 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. And the rout to depression is unresolved grief. May be somebody you look up to suddenly dies 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 idolize 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 who are finding out they cannot attain them get depressed and then commit suicide” she said.
On the way out she said, “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.
“At the 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.”
Mr. Odera Onuoha another psychologist who spoke with BusinessHallmark put most of the blame on social media, He said, “New travels faster than before. The advent of social media will only make the situation worse. Yes, there is hardship in the country today but there was also hardship in the past. The difference is that it is very easy to get influenced today, especially as a young person. The good, the bad and the ugly are all on social media.
“If one young man in Ibadan decides to end his life due to one form of hardship, another young man in Enugu who is going through a similar problem could be encouraged to take the same action. Is it our way of life? No! But you know with social media, these things have a way of crossing the border very fast. The social media needs to be regulated. Parents should pay more attention to their children’s online activities.”