Suicide was the subject matter of this column on April 16, 2016. “Managing failures in life” was the title of the piece. What prompted that piece was a story which appeared in the Daily Trust edition of Tuesday, April 5, 2016 that an 18-year-old female student attempted taking her life in Kubwa, Abuja, over her inability to score up to 200 points in the Unified Tertiary Matriculation Examination (UTME). The student was writing the examination for the second time; having failed to obtain the required cut-off mark in the previous attempt. The girl reportedly took 12 tablets of paracetamol at once and thus became dazed. She was quickly rushed to the Kubwa General Hospital where she was treated and later discharged.
Three years after that incident, the scourge is yet on the rise as evidenced by frequently reported cases in the media. For instance, two different suicide cases were reported separately on pages 32 and 33 in the Daily Trust edition of Wednesday, June 12, 2019. That indicates high prevalence of this unfortunate threat to human survival, which is something to actually worry about.
The story on page 32 of the newspaper under reference reports that a 29-year-old student of Waziri Umaru Federal Polytchnic, Birnin Kebbi, committed suicide for what he described as ‘financial misfortune’. The late student, whose name was given as Solomon Benedict, was said have taken insecticide mixed with yoghurt. The late Benedict was said to have threatened to take his own life many times because of the financial difficulties which he claimed he was passing through. A female friend of the deceased said: “For sometimes now he has been telling me he would kill himself if his financial situation did not improve but I never believed he meant it. Whenever he visited me in Jega, he always lamented his financial situation and I would give him some money to transport himself back to Birnin Kebbi. The Kebbi State Police Command Public Relations Officer, DSP Nafiu Abubakar confirmed the incident.
On page 33 of the same newspaper quoted above, a 17-year-old girl, Sadiya Shehu of Tudun Murtala quarters, Nasarawa Local Government Area of Kano State was reported to have committed suicide on Monday June 10, 2019 over a misunderstanding between her parents, which led to her mother’s divorce. She died after consuming insecticide (locally known as pia-pia). On Friday June 15, 2019, the Police in Kano similarly confirmed the death of a college teacher, Femi Oguntumi of Dakata Quarters, who was believed to have committed suicide without any notice. The 40-year-old man, who was a staff of Karish College, Kawaji quarters, was found hung to the ceiling in his room.
According to medical experts, untreated depression is the number one cause of suicide. Other immediate and remote causes that could lead to suicide may include divorce or breakup of a relationship; rejection by family members; physical and sexual abuse including rape; incarceration; drug and alcohol abuse; bullying and humiliation; molestation and stigmatization; loss of job, house or money; terminal illness; hopelessness that sprout from feelings that things will never get better; a feeling of failure in life; financial problems; loneliness or social isolation; unemployment; war; mental illness; and family history.
To a large extent, one may agree with the view that partly blames the current spate of suicide among Nigerian youths on breakdown of societal values. I do not subscribe to the opinion which accuses government for every pattern of failure of misfortune in the society. In the case of suicide, family members especially parents are squarely responsible for providing necessary guidance to their children or wards. There exists apparent dereliction of responsibility by many contemporary parents who seem to have either leased their parental duties to government or have asked the latter to act as parents by proxy. Others also think religious leaders should, through preaching, provide solutions to their children’s problems. This is an escapist and irresponsible way of thinking.
Parents must realize that government cannot provide the natural love, care and home-training needed by children as innocent young boys and girls. In today’s complex world, children need a lot of counselling from parents to enable them take wise educational or vocational decisions on the one hand; and on the other, accept realities of life as dictated by one’s socio-economic circumstances. Parents are advised to avoid putting undue pressures on their children over issues in which their choice matters; especially if they have come of age. Mutual communication between parents and their children is also vital in forestalling any suicidal tendencies. Some parents, probably out of too much wealth or extreme poverty, do not find it necessary to sit with and discuss important issues with their children. Any communication gaps created by parents are equally holes-in-the-wall which drugs, intoxicating substances, peer group influence and quack preachers would opportunistically hasten to fill.
Parents and other family members must keep talking and counseling to assist individuals overcome challenges that threaten their present or future dreams. We should educate and convince individuals with challenges that failure isn’t the end of life; and that “In great attempts, it could even be glorious to fail.” Different people (young and old) manage failures in life in different ways. Due largely to frustrations and other psychological factors, some individuals manage disappointing situations with the most expensive alternative; the suicide option. Apart from being a taboo in African culture, it is forbidden in Islam for one to take his own life; a sacred gift from Allah (SWT).
Suicide does not happen suddenly. Family members have the foremost role of identifying warning signs and taking measures to address such as soon as suicidal symptoms manifest in their spouse, children or siblings. Every potential means or instrument of suicide such as pills, knives, or razors should be kept out of the reach of a suicidal person. His medications too should be locked away or given out only as the person needs them.
Some suicidal warnings or signs in a suicidal person may include having problems with eating, sleeping and socialization; reckless behavior such as over-speeding while driving or driving through red lights; talking about suicide; giving away possessions; researching suicide methods on the internet; buying suicide materials and writing suicide notes. May Allah (SWT) guide us to accept that Allah, the Irresistible, is Sufficient as a Protector and Provider, amin.