Why Young Persons Take to Suicide

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Several factors are said to be responsible for the rising trend in suicide cases among Nigerian youths

By Vincent Nzemeke  |  Mar. 24, 2014 @ 01:00 GMT

THE news of the death of Oladipo Ige, a final year student of the Obafemi Awolowo University, was the issue that dominated discussions of Facebook, Twitter, blogs and other social media platforms on March 3, 2014. Ige’s death became a sensational topic because he was reported to have committed suicide by poisoning himself after allegedly being jilted by his girl friend.

According to some of his friends, Ige had been having a rough time with his girlfriend and that eventually led to a break up sometimes in February. When several efforts to get her back failed, he decided to end it all by taking his own life. Like Ige, Diano Ovie-Richy, a  former student of Delta State University, Abraka, also took away his life by suicide.  Ovie-Richie, an indigene of Delta State, committed suicide on Christmas day in 2013 because of the refusal of the authorities of the University to issue him a certificate for his Bachelor of Science, B.Sc degree.

In a suicide noted posted on his Facebook page, Ovie-Richy said taking his life was a “Xmas gift” to his Facebook friends. “I’ve had failure in all aspects of my life,” he wrote. “I invested 10 years of my life for a B.Sc yet Umukoro, Oboreh and Odirin ate it up. Any business I run always fail, some say I need deliverance because I’m cursed.”

Ige
Ige

The cases of Ige and Ovie-Richy are just two of the many involving young people in various parts of Nigeria who have committed suicide in the last three years, thereby confirming fears about the rising trend of suicide among youths in the country. In March 2012, Motunrayo Ogbara, a 26-year-old ex-banker in Lagos State, committed suicide. There were speculations that Ogbara, a graduate of Economics from the University of Lagos, was depressed and had made an earlier attempt to commit suicide before eventually doing so in 2012. Ogbara’s shocking death was still generating reactions when another lady, Elizabeth Andrew in Isheri, Lagos, was found hanging on metal burglary bars behind a window in her apartment. Andrew died before any help could reach her..

Youth suicide is not limited to Lagos. In 2013, Bilkisi Gidado, a 30-year-old woman resident in Jalingo, Taraba State, committed suicide after her husband reportedly took a second wife. Gidado was said to have set herself ablaze and eventually fell into a well in her residence.

Around the same time, a newspaper reported the case of Tobilola Ajihun in Ajuwon, Ogun State who killed herself after her long-time boyfriend, Simeon Akinremi, rejected her pregnancy. Her suicide note read, “Please, I killed myself by taking rat poison because he rejected my pregnancy. I was sincere to him and I never double-dated. So, I decided to take my life and my God will revenge because I did not forgive him.”

Recently, Emmanuel Peter, a 29-year-old man, allegedly committed suicide in the Girei Local Government Area of Adamawa State after medical results revealed that he was HIV positive. With the revelation, it is now clear that suicide is gradually becoming the norm in Nigeria.

But the question on the lips of many people is: “what will make anyone, especially a young person to commit suicide?” Ernest Osghale, executive director of Change Agents, an Abuja- based non-governmental organisation, hinges the rise in suicide cases among youths on  the harsh economic conditions in the country. According to him, compared to the early 80’s, the propensity to commit suicide is high among today’s youths because the economic situation has become harsher.

“When we were growing up, it was difficult to contemplate suicide let alone do it. You were sure of getting a job the moment you graduated from school, so everybody looked to the future. But check the young people of today, they are very frustrated and for some of them, life is not worth living. So it is very easy for them to commit suicide.”

Other than the economic challenge, Johnson Olise, a lecturer at Delta State University, Abraka, blamed the rising suicide rate among youths on their “lazy attitude to life. They want it easy. Someone who just graduated from school will just decide to end his life because he cannot get a job. Life has never been easy and youths must be made to realise that.”

Okey Anazonwu, a senior lecturer in the department of Psychology, Nnamdi Azikiwe University, UNIZIK Awka, concurred that the economic situation in Nigeria plays a role in the rising rate of suicide. “Frustration is generally the cause of suicide. Frustration leads to depression and suicide is the extreme case of frustration.  Frustration is caused by anything that stops one from reaching his goal, and, this depends on how people try to tackle their needs. In some cases, frustration makes one to become aggressive.”

Ovie
Ovie

Despite the focus on Nigerian youths, suicide appears to have become a global challenge. According to a 2013 data released by the World Health Organisation, WHO, suicide rate has increased by 60 percent worldwide in the last 45 years. The report added that suicide is now among the three leading causes of death among people aged between 15and 44.

The WHO also reports that an average of 3,000 people commits suicide daily in the world and that for every person who completes a suicide, 20 or more may end up doing it. The global statistics notwithstanding, the rising rate of suicide in Nigeria is worrisome because the various religious and ethnic beliefs in the country are clearly against it.

Speaking on a radio programme on the topic in Abuja recently, Sheikh Rimi Jega, an Islamic cleric, said Islam, as a religion forbids suicide. “Whoever commits suicide in Islam, according to Prophet Muhammad, will go to hell.” On the same programme, Chiedozie Anyanwu, a pastor, submitted that it was also against Christian norms to commit suicide. “Suicide is a crime against God. The bible places a curse on anyone who hangs himself on a tree. A person who commits suicide does so because he has come to a situation where he is unable to cope with the reality of life and feels the best option is to die.”

But, Humphrey Nduka, a psychiatrist, said most people who commit suicide have untreated mental problems from psychosis, drug abuse and depression. Under such conditions,  they can succumb to ‘voices’ suggesting they take their lives and they can  respond without knowing exactly what they are doing. Some of such victims, he said, do not leave suicide notes. To stem the tide, he said, parents and guardians are encouraged to take note of certain behavioural changes in the children and those in their care.

Valerie Nwakanma, a teacher said parents should give hope to their children who are passing through difficult times as a result of unemployment, marital problems or societal rejection and should refrain from comparing their children with their mates who have been successful.

On his part, Festus Okoye, executive director of human rights monitor, blamed the rising cases of youths and teenage suicide on poverty and collapse or absence of family support. Like Nwakanma, Okoye also advised parents to show concern in the welfare of their children.

“Some of the young people seeing no hope of a better future succumb to frustration and depression and see their lives as meaningless. Others are victims of peer pressure and when they cannot meet societal and their own expectations, they resort to extreme measures like taking their own lives. There are also some young persons who have taken to a life of drugs and gotten sucked in, and in desperation, decide to end their lives,” he said.

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