Key words: Suicide, warning signs, consequences, prevention.
Can Suicide Be prevented in Nigeria? How does someone identify a person who is suicidal? What are the aftermaths of suicide?
Suicide is an intentional and voluntary act of killing oneself. Most Nigerians cannot spot a person who is suicidal. And they do not believe that a person who is contemplating suicide can ever voice it out. Suicide actually is a cry for help. But unfortunately, most often, people do not spot them to give them the required help. Thus suicide goes from ideation, to planning, to attempt and finally to completed suicide.
For those contemplating suicide, they should know that suicide is a negative permanent solution to a temporary problem. There are other and better means of solving problems.
Some suicide warning signs.
- In order to answer the question of, can suicide be prevented in Nigeria, first know the warning signs.
- Suicide warning signs indicate that suicide could be eminent within minutes, hours or days. Every threat of suicide should be taken seriously.
- Someone could voice out threats to hurt or kill him/herself.
- He or she could be seen looking for means to kill self.
- Talking, writing or drawing about death. He may voice out that life has no meaning, or hopeless. He/she may talk about feeling guilty or ashamed.
- He may complain about being a burden to other people. Or that he wished that he was never born. Could write suicidal notes.
- Suicide can be associated with symptoms of depression, like crying spells. The person may keep to self, and withdraw from family and friends.
- The individual may go to family and friends to bid them goodbye in preparation to die. He/she may give out personal possessions and pay their debts.
- Studies have it that 64% of people, who die by suicide, visit their doctors a month before the act. And 34% do so a week before the act. So they make complaints that are not recognized or taken seriously.
The consequences or aftermath of suicide.
- Knowing the consequences of suicide, will also go a long way to ensure that suicide is prevented in Nigeria.
- Suicide has very serious consequences. This is not only on the dying or dead person, but also on the grieving family members. Even the friends, the community and the society in general are negatively affected.
- It is reported that one suicide act, can impact 6 or more other people. And this impact is more if the suicide occurred in public.
- Effects on the individual:
- For does who survive attempted suicide, they could end up being maimed for life. This depends on the method used.
- The person may end up with guilt, shame and regrets.
- There may be a repeat of the act. This happens if the individual receives no treatment.
- They may face stigmatization from the family members, community, and society and even at work place.
- Their mental health condition will worsen without help.
2. Effects on the family members and friends:
- The family and friends will undergo grief and some may end up with pathological grief. And the bereavement they face is different from other bereavements.
- They face being stigmatized or ostracized by the society. Or have self stigmatization. So they may isolate themselves or be isolated by the society.
- The family and friends may feel guilty and blame themselves for their actions or inactions. So they may believe that they have failed the individual, the family and the community.
- They feel rejected, with low self esteem.
- These people may come down with depression, anxiety post traumatic stress disorder, etc. and even suicide.
- They could also suffer from physical illness and death from the illness.
3. Effects on the society:
- Suicide prevalence is more on the young people, so productivity is also negatively affected.
- Thus the economic growth of the country is also negatively affected.
Can suicide be prevented in Nigeria?
Suicide both attempted and completed are preventable. Prevention requires the actions of everyone. So it is important that everyone knows about the risk factors and the warning signs.
- Prevention by the individual:
- The individual should know that suicide is a permanent and unnecessary solution to a temporary problem. It is also important to know that time heals all problems.
- Reduce stress. There is need to reduce stress to prevent breaking down with mental illness.
- If one has a mental health condition, there is need to get treatment from a specialist. It is also important to comply with treatment regimen.
- Develop healthy coping and problem solving skills, like talking to a trusted friend. Eat healthy and exercise. Have good night sleep of at least 8 hours.
- One should avoid living the life of other people’s expectations. So there is need to keep off social factors that will financially affect, negatively. For example, avoid ‘asoebi’ when it is not affordable and absolutely necessary.
- Plan only with funds at hand. Also there maybe need to rethink about the children’s schools and the house rents. This is to ensure that they are affordable.
- There is need to get a job, even if not a dream job. And work hard to avoid being laid off.
- It is important to know that religion and spirituality can reduce suicidality. Religion can help restructure the person’s belief system. And it gives access to social support groups from among the church members. Spirituality provides hope and gives meaning to someone who is suffering. The person depends on God to solve his/her problems. It is documented that children raised by religious parents, are less likely to die by suicide.
- Search for suicide telephone help or hotlines closest to you from the internet.
- There should be advocacy from those who survived suicide. this will go a long way in preventing others engaging in suicidal acts.
2. Family and friends:
- Take all talks of suicide very serious.
- Family and friends should support those at risk. This can be done by giving a listening ear to their concerns without judgments. Also be there for them, either physically, financially or socially. And never leave those who are suicidal alone. One should ensure that there are no objects around them that can be used for suicide.
- There is need to ask questions about suicide thoughts and plans, to those at risk. Asking direct questions about suicide does not increase the risk of suicide. So ask questions like “have you ever thought of death or killing yourself ?”
- Family or friends should get them to seek help from a specialist, i.e. a psychiatrist.
3. The clergy:
- The clergy should ensure that they are adequately trained to identify their members with mental health conditions. And they should be adequately referred to specialists. So there is need for the clergy to stop spiritualizing mental illness.
- There is need for the clergy to encourage their members to continue their medications.
- They should also stop glamorizing suicide during burial services. So they should avoid using words like ‘the dead is now at peace.’
- They should use the burial services to preach against suicide and the need to get mental health treatment when necessary.
4. Governments and policy makers:
- The policy makers and government should make laws to control access to lethal weapons, toxin and drugs.
- The government needs to provide employment, housing and other social amenities. And also to reduce poverty in the country.
- Those at the helm of affairs should make the treatment of mental health available, accessible and affordable. So the training of mental health professionals is very important. Training of other health professionals to easily identify those with mental health conditions is also necessary, especially those at the primary healthcare centers.
- The policy and law makers should look into the issues of early marriage and inheritance.
- Schools from primary to tertiary institutions should have school counselors. The counselors should be easily accessible.
5. The role of the media:
- It is important that the media do sensible reporting. This goes for the print media, the visual and audio media, as well as the social media.
- The World Health Organization (WHO) guidelines on media reporting of suicide should be followed during media reporting.
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