In the heart of Nigeria, a disturbing trend has emerged in recent years, casting a shadow over its vibrant youth population. The land of over 200 million souls has unwittingly become one of the epicenters of a grave crisis, with its young adults, aged 15 to 29, bearing the heaviest burden. This nation now bears the ignominious title of having the highest suicide rate in Africa.
Behind these grim statistics lies a complex tapestry of despair. The suicide estimate of 17.3 per 100,000 is a stark contrast to the global average of 10.5 per 100,000 and even surpasses Africa’s average of 12.0 per 100,000. Alarming as it is, the trend only worsens, with the global statistics revealing a consistent rise in suicides within Nigeria since 2012.
In the heart of this crisis are stories that paint a chilling picture. Take the case of Joseph Olona, a student at the Federal University of Technology Akure (FUTA), who took his own life in the cold grip of despair on January 31, 2023. His torment stemmed from fraud allegations, a dark web of deceit that ultimately led him to the depths of despair.
Then there’s the haunting tale of Desola Adeoye, a 14-year-old girl in the Shogunle community of Lagos state. She suffered in silence, subjected to unspeakable domestic violence at the hands of her own parents. In a desperate bid to escape this torment, she tragically resorted to consuming lethal insecticide.
Ojo Bamidele, hailing from Ondo State, teetered on the precipice of despair, his frustrations at home pushing him to the brink. The weight of unmet family responsibilities and his inability to care for himself bore down heavily. However, a ray of hope came in the form of the Nigeria Suicide Prevention Initiative (NSPI), which managed to pull him back from the abyss.
These harrowing stories, unfortunately, are not isolated incidents but part of a troubling pattern. Suicide attempts among Nigeria’s youth have become a grave concern demanding urgent attention. In response, lawmakers have deemed suicide a crime punishable by imprisonment, a move intended to deter potential victims from taking their own lives.
Delving deeper into this crisis, experts have identified some of the root causes of youth suicides. These range from the scourge of fraudulent schemes that prey on vulnerable minds, as experienced by Dada Alayo, to familial abuse, economic hardships, and the overwhelming pressure to meet societal expectations.
As Nigeria grapples with this dark reality, the need for solutions becomes paramount. The voices of experts rise in unison, advocating for comprehensive mental health support, educational campaigns, and the nurturing of support systems to provide hope where despair has taken hold. The battle to save Nigeria’s youth from the scourge of suicide is underway, but it’s a battle that demands collective effort and unwavering commitment to bring light to the darkest corners of despair.
In a compelling address, Ashia Bubah, a psychologist and prominent mental health advocate and also the founder of Redeemer health initiative hailing from Abuja, shed light on the complex issue of youth suicide in Nigeria. Bubah’s insights delve into the root causes and propose vital solutions to this pressing concern.
Bubah emphasized that suicide often finds its origins in mental health conditions such as clinical depression and bipolar disorder. Furthermore, she underscored the profound impact of social factors, including financial stress, academic pressure, and relationship issues, which disproportionately affect young people. Buba also noted the perilous role of drug overdoses among the youth, even in cases where suicide is not the initial intent.
In a critical revelation, Bubah disclosed that suicide attempts are criminalized in Nigeria. She asserted that this legal stance, although strict, serves as a deterrent and underscores the government’s commitment to tackling this crisis.
Expanding on her proposed solutions, Bubah urged families to prioritize mental health awareness and education within their households. She urged families to engage in open conversations about mental health, including understanding the signs of suicide and its warning signals. By fostering an environment of support rather than judgment, families can play a crucial role in preventing suicide.
Ashia Bubah’s message resonates as a call to action. Her insights into the causes of youth suicide and her pragmatic solutions emphasize the importance of collective efforts from both the government and families to combat this grave issue, ultimately aiming to save lives and create a more compassionate society.
In a pressing call for action, advocates are urging the government to intensify efforts to make mental health services more accessible to all citizens. While mental health services have made strides, they still face significant challenges, including a lack of trained professionals and financial resources. A crucial step forward, experts argue, is expanding these services into schools and community settings to ensure broader access and greater support.
One noteworthy initiative, the “Sunshine Series,” has launched a suicide prevention helpline at 122, the national emergency number in Nigeria. This lifeline is currently active in the capital, Abuja, providing a critical resource for individuals in crisis. The initiative highlights the importance of establishing accessible mental health support systems nationwide.
At the grassroots level, individuals and families are also being urged to play their part. By checking on loved ones and understanding the challenges they may be facing, people can provide essential support and care during times of emotional distress.
In a united effort to address the growing mental health crisis, the rallying cry is clear: “SAVE A SOUL TODAY.” It is a collective call to action to ensure that mental health services are accessible, comprehensive, and available to all in need.