Until most recently, suicide, the act of taking one’s own life, was an obscure phenomenon in Nigeria, few and far between. Culturally, it is a taboo and the stigma can haunt the family of the victim for generations. Almost all religions abhor suicide just as it is illegal for one to end one’s life. Legal experts consider it a felonious act, that is, if the attempt fails.
Many factors have been known to drive one to the limit and to the extent of terminating his or her life. These include the psychological, health and economic issues. Even religious fanaticism can lead to suicide. Examples abound such as the modern day Jihadists who kill themselves in the hope of a reward in Heaven. But psychologists have cited some reasons why people make an attempt on their own lives. Depression is considered the most common reason people commit suicide. Psychosis, a malevolent inner voice commanding self-destruction for unintelligible reasons, is another. There is also the impulsive often related to drugs and alcohol. There are also those in dire need. They’re crying out for help, and don’t know how else to get it. These people don’t usually want to die but do want to alert those around them that something is seriously wrong. There are those who have a philosophical desire to die. The decision to commit suicide, to them, is based on a reasoned decision, often motivated by the presence of a painful terminal illness from which little to no hope of reprieve exists. Suicide can also be caused by mistake. This is a recent, tragic phenomenon in which typically young people flirt with oxygen deprivation for the high it brings and simply go too far.
To those so inclined, it is an escape from suffering or a troubling situation. And the World Health Organisation (WHO) is worried. Its statistics presents a scenario that is disturbing. According to that international organisation, not less than a million people die annually from suicide. This represents a global mortality rate of 16 people per 100,000 or one death every 40 seconds. Even more disturbing, WHO observes, is the fact that there are an estimated 10 to 20 million attempted suicides every year. In the not too distant past, it was an act Nigerians read in books and watched in movies. In practice, it was very rare. But at the rate this tendency is growing among the populace is, indeed, alarming.
For instance, WHO in 1990, reported that suicide resulted in 712,000 deaths and in 2012 it was the second cause of death among young people between15-29 years, over 800,000 people died of suicide. While by 2013, it rose to 842,000 making it the 10th leading cause of death worldwide. WHO’s 2012 statistics also showed that out of Nigeria’s population, 6.5 per cent committed suicide out of which 10.3 per cent were male and 2.9 per cent were female. The Police has just reported that 62 Nigerians successfully took their lives within a period of six months. This is posing a big problem.
Analysts are blaming it on one or more of the above mentioned factors. But, in our considered opinion, the issue must not be left at the level of academics, something to be studied to satisfy some intellectual curiosity for the simple reason that human lives are the subject of study.
We recall that Nigerians were once declared as the happiest people in the world. A happy person has no business committing suicide. So, at what point did hara-kiri, as the Japanese call it, become attractive to Nigerians? That, in our view, is a question only our governments, at all levels, must attempt an answer. Are their policies and programmes driving the citizens to the limits? Could the rising cost of living, inflation, unemployment and the general down turn of the economy stressing Nigerians to breaking point? The authorities must address this looming tragedy decisively with the sole intent of reversing the trend. This must be done very urgently.