By Uzoh Ugwueze & Gabriel Chy Alonta
Recent upsurge in teenage suicides in Nigeria has triggered fresh fear and call for urgent efforts to tackle rising cases of depression, anxiety, eating disorders and substance abuse among others. More worrisome is the fact that most of the suicides share their struggles and desires to terminate their lives on social media.
Orient Weekend recalls that Chukwuemeka Akachi, a final year student in the University of Nigeria, Nsukka ended his own life last Monday by consuming cocktails of poisonous substances, reportedly after earlier suicide attempts. Before his demise, Akachi, had posted a suicide note on his Facebook time line titled “Sixteen Note on How to End a Life”.
Since Chukwuemeka Akachi took his own life, several other people have threatened, on their social media handles, to commit suicide, mostly, on the ground of being depressed and fed up with life.
Hot on the heels of Akachi’s death, Michael Arowosaiye, a pastor and gospel artist, also terminated his own life. Arowosaiye, who regularly performed at Redeemed Christian Church of God, RCCG, programmes in Abuja, reportedly hanged himself with his belt at Sunnyvale Estate, Lokogoma District, Abuja. He must have been depressed and battling with financial challenges which he, in his suicide note, claimed to have communicated to his regional (and other) pastors within the church in Abuja, all to no avail. Unlike Akachi who lived as an atheist, Arowosaiye was deeply religious. As recently as March, he posted a picture of himself and Bishop Wale Oke on Facebook declaring “Lord please I receive this great grace. “Thank you Bishop Francis Wale Oke.”
Another teenager, simply identified as Favilla Reigns, on May 15, declared her bid to end her life on her Facebook time line. She wrote: “I tried to move on, I tried to hold onto the false beliefs that everything will be fine but, instead it gets worse … The call for Eternal Rest… I came into the world, I Struggled and I’ve Given up…It breaks my heart to Type this down but pass it down to my loved ones… Tell them I said I never had enough time to say goodbye…”.
The suicide message generated widespread reactions as many tried to dissuade her from committing suicide. However, some persons encouraged her ‘instead making noise on the social media.’
Checks by this paper revealed that Favilla Reigns, born on August 17, 1997, later rescinded her decision and thanked her followers for their timely intervention. She wrote, “Guess what Guys. Am Giving life a Second chance… Let’s keep fighting… Thanks for the love. If you can’t hold it back, cry it out ooo.”
It was the same story with Emmanuel Joseph and Olaitan Gbadamosi.
Joseph, a student from Okene Kogi state, wrote: “I don’t know what might happen to me after this…With a heavy heart…Thanks to all who supported me one way or the other… Life is so unfair to me.” Two weeks earlier, Gbadamosi had been found dead in her room in Aluu, one of the host communities of UNIPORT with bottles of insecticide and sniper. In a short video, Olaitan was seen sobbing and making inaudible comments.
Factors fueling suicide
Meanwhile, Venerable Dr. Samuel Onoh of the Christ Redemption Anglican Church, Enugu, has ascribed the phenomenon to economic hardship and disrespect to the word of God. “I must first say that things are hard in the country; so many people are passing through difficult times. But I have to state that no condition should warrant one taking his life.
“The problem is that many people no longer have regard for God and His word. If they did, they would know that He abhors suicide. Other people have even passed through more difficult situations but they trusted in God and He saw them through.
Mr. Olu Omotayo, a civil rights lawyer, also blamed the economic situation in the country for the new suicide epidemic. “All these things they are talking about in the country about good economy are just paper work; there is no improvement on the lives of the people. You recall that, as soon as the president was re-elected, even the stock exchange lost billions of naira. What it means is that even the investors did not envisage that he was going to win; so, they lost confidence in the process and the consequence was there for all to see.”
“It is a situation that will continue if something urgent is not done. I am not saying that everybody must be rich, but the economy should be good enough such that people can afford three square meals.
Dr. Dilibe Uchechukwu, a medical consultant, attributed the wave of suicides in Nigeria to a number of factors including poverty, frustration, excessive wealth, sexual dissatisfaction which could predispose one to psychological imbalance, depression and then suicide.
“Depression and psychiatric illness culminate in suicide. Both the rich and the poor are equally affected. Dissatisfaction of the mind is a key trigger. Once the mind is unstable, whether you have everything around or not, depression will set in.
“I will advise that we change our value system; it is very important. People should stop pursuing shadows,” he adds.
Meanwhile, experts have also suggested, through the National Institute for Mental Health (NIMH), tips for helping someone who may be going through a crisis. Inquiries as to whether they are thinking about suicide, staying around them and removing means of committing suicide such as knives, listening to them and being there for them are some of these.
Others are to encourage them to call a helpline or alert someone the individual could turn to for support – a friend, family member, or spiritual mentor.