By Isa Mubarak
In 2016, a female student of the Bayero University Kano, (BUK), Sarah Imoleay Ighidabo, committed suicide by drinking a poisonous insecticide suspected to be Sniper.
Last Sunday, 35-year- old medical doctor, Allwell Orji, jumped into the Lagos Lagoon and died. Last Saturday, a 500-level student of Ladoke Akintola University of Technology (LAUTECH), Ogbomosho, Adesoji Adediran, hanged himself inside his hostel room. In January this year, a 19-year-old student of Babcock University in Ilishan-Remo, Ogun State, Verishima Unokyur, also committed suicide and so on.
These are just some of the few cases that caught the public’s eye, there are still rumors and speculation and as to why they committed suicides ranging from depression, mental illness, hopelessness, loneliness and even some ‘spiritual’. While some leave a suicide note for their loved ones, some don’t feel the need to or might have committed suicide out of impulse.
Suicide used to be a rare thing in Nigeria, for a country which Forbes once ranked as the 20th saddest nation, Nigerians are fond of always seeing light at the end of the tunnel. As Fela Kuti put it ‘suffering and smiling’. But with the rising cases of suicide or attempted suicide in Nigeria, one is forced to ask why this is now a trend.
As Nigerians, we typically don’t talk about being depressed. Many people with depression may not consider themselves depressed: Africans are mostly in denial about depression, we have the belief that depression is a disease of the ‘white people’. We deny its existence, hence the havoc it causes.
Although, it is not all the time that suicide is as a result of depression, both concept are deeply connected. Suicide is not an issue to be made light of, it’s typically linked to depression which is not only a mental condition; it is also physical.
We make suicide jokes, we even call them cowards who couldn’t confront their challenges, but everything seems funny as long as it’s happening to someone else. Let’s pray we don’t face such circumstances that make us suicidal or even contemplate suicide.
In reality, nobody really wants to die, even those who commit suicide don’t want to die, they only want to be ‘free’ from the problems confronting them. There have been cases when the world’s greatest contemplated suicide. Eminem who tried to end his life by overdosing on Tylenol, Oprah while pregnant at 14 she considered ending things, even drinking detergent in an attempt to get rid of her baby.
I’ve only been able to guess at the devastation these people have experienced. Pain mixed with guilt, anger, and regret makes for a bitter drink, the taste of which I’ve seen took many months or even years to wash out of some mouths. The one question everyone has asked is simply: why? Why did their friend, child, parent, spouse, or sibling take their own life?
Even when a note explaining the reasons is found, lingering questions usually remain: yes, they felt enough despair to want to die, but why did they feel that way? A person’s suicide often takes the people it leaves behind by surprise (only accentuating survivor’s guilt for failing to see it coming).
People who have survived suicide attempts have reported wanting not so much to die as to stop living, a strange dichotomy but a valid one nevertheless. If some in-between state existed, some other alternative to death. They’re not as intuitive as most think. These are people who were confused about what happened next, who felt so much shame that they couldn’t talk about what had happened to them, people who felt misunderstood and alone.
Some might be depressed. This is without question the most common reason people commit suicide. Severe depression is always accompanied by a pervasive sense of suffering as well as the belief that escape from it is hopeless.
Maybe 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.
A suicidal person may not ask for help, but that doesn’t mean that help isn’t wanted. Reach out to them, listen to them and check their safety. People who take their lives don’t want to die—they just want to stop hurting. Suicide prevention starts with recognising the warning signs and taking them seriously. If you think a friend or family member is considering suicide, you might be afraid to bring up the subject, but talking openly about suicidal thoughts and feelings can save a life.
Mubarak tweets @IsaMubi3