- Oftentimes acquaintances and very close associates of suicide victims express regret of neglect and feeling of guilt when a loved one commits suicide. Soon after the news of a suicide incident, answers to probable questions on what some of them failed to do seem to be very late. Others who know the victim begin to recollect their last moments together. In some instances, a reflection in the frequency of the menace in the community are narrated or recounted. Suicide is a deliberate act of forcefully killing oneself. Occasions abound where some victims write suicide notes stating reasons for the act, while some don’t and thereby leave sympathizers quite devastated.
- Suicide cases pre-dates late BC era. For example, in 13 BC, Ajax the Great killed himself because he wanted the armour of Achilles but was given to Odysseus. He went berserk and killed the Greek herd of cattle. Realising his folly, he killed himself with a sword in order to still remain a hero. Suicide incident is becoming rampant and alarming as well as being an attractive means among young people to call it quit with existence. While it is registered more in developing nations, the developed and richer nations also record increasing cases of suicide. The increase in trend cuts across all cultures, age brackets and sexes in the various strata of the social order be it race, professions, schools and beliefs amongst others. Worldwide, suicide is the second leading cause of death for adolescents, aged 15–29-year-olds. In its 2020 report, the WHO stated that about 700,000 people die due to suicide every year in the world and that it is the third leading cause of death among teenagers. The statistics further indicates that 79 per cent of suicide cases are recorded in low-income countries.
- In the USA, suicide is a major national public health problem. The increasing rate tended to attain epidemic level as some citizens adopts it as best option to end their lives. The American foundation for suicide prevention posits that suicide is the tenth leading cause of death in the USA and the second leading cause of death among young people. At the inception of COVID-19 pandemic the American Centre for Disease Control (CDC) found that 21.5 percent within age 18 to 24 committed suicide. In spite of this, it is suspected that suicide is underreported in the USA due to the stigma surrounding it. The reported cases in 2020 indicate that 132 Americans died by suicide daily which translates to 48,180 with 1.4 million attempts. If the rate continues at current trends, an estimated average of 54,000 individuals per year will die by suicide come 2025. Interestingly, the military community in the USA is not exempted from incidences of members who have killed selves especially retirees. Although the ratio is low compared to the civil community however, their involvement is of serious concern to the top US military hierarchy. It was estimated that about 30,177 active duty personnel and veterans of post 9/11 have died by suicide.
- In 2000, Ukraine had the highest rate of suicide incidents with 29.6 deaths in every 100,000 persons. Serious concern was raised by the leadership and measures taken to address the rising suicide incidents. By 2015 the rate dropped to 18 per 100,000 persons. However, over the years till date the country is witnessing increase number to over 20 per 100,000 people. In Scotland, 833 suicide cases were registered in 2019. This was 49 more incidents over the cases recorded in 2018. In South Africa, The Minister of Health Mkhize said that between the commencement of the COVID-19 lockdown and August 2020, about 1,781 people had committed suicide. This is aside the over 23 daily registered cases of suicide in the country while in India it accounted for 134,516 deaths with 67 percent5 among young adults in 2019.
- Nigeria is not immune to the incidents of suicide. As at 2016 it was 16th in the world ranking with 9.7 in every 100,000 persons. Annual reported cases abound every year but the unreported instances are much more, requiring concerted effort to stem it. Owing to unwillingness to report the incidents, it was ridiculously posited that, from 2010 to 2019 Nigeria recorded a total of 350 suicides. Meanwhile, the menace is on the increase yet there have been no aggressive and deliberate institutionalized measures to mitigate the scourge. Suicide is considered a stigma in Nigeria, as such many families of victims ensured that occurrences were kept secret within the confines of the family or community.
- The Military in Nigeria also shares in the statistics. Record indicates that the military loses personnel yearly through suicide. This brings to question; why would a person decide to end his/her existence? Are there no other options to exploit in order to be alive than commit suicide? Were families, friends and other people around suicide victims unapproachable? Did service personnel who committed suicide seek audience with their superiors? Is there a mechanism in Nigeria that serves as a watchdog to treat suicide ideation and report or document same? Attempts shall be made to answer some of these questions and effort to provide some remedy to avert epidemic level.
- Some words would be defined or clarified to give an insight into the subject matter.
(1) According to the Cambridge Dictionary, suicide is the act of killing one self intentionally. Good as this definition is, it failed to mention whether the act of killing oneself was committed directly or indirectly by the person. This is because some victims commit suicide as a sacrifice for others and such deaths could be said to be indirect acts.
(2) Emile Durkheim defined suicide as the death resulting directly or indirectly from a positive or negative act of the victim himself, which he knows will produce this result. Durkheim mentioned that the act could be committed directly or indirectly by the victim but failed to mention the age category nor indicate the alarming nature of suicide incidents.
(3) This paper would define suicide by combining the 2 definitions for use as a working definition. Thus, suicide is defined as the act of intentionally killing oneself irrespective of age by using direct or indirect means. This definition essentially captured intentional killing of oneself and the method to be used regardless of age bracket. The prevalence of younger persons committing suicide is alarming especially now that it has been established that the future and wellbeing of any nation or organization depends on the younger generation.
- Silent. Silent is defined as an act of not making noise or sound, being completely quiet nor saying anything. When silence pervades a situation, it could be positive for good or negative for worse things. The silence experienced in the face of young Nigerians committing suicide without measures to curb it is very much disturbing.
- Need for Proactive Measures. The Need for proactive measures is conceptualize by this writer as the necessity to make strategic plan of actions against the threat posed by increasing suicide incidents.
- The spate of suicide attempts and incidents worldwide as well as locally is becoming alarming. Painfully, the age bracket where it is most pronounced is among teenagers and young adults. Quite a number of people who have conceived the idea to commit suicide but eventually received some forms of counseling have expressed gratitude for the counsels. Interestingly some reasons for committing suicide and attempts to commit same arise from traumas caused by love related issues, rape incidents, rejection, marital and family problems. Some are due to addictions that put severe pressure on the victims. Others are traumatic disorders particularly among military personnel in combat operations. Emotional and physical abuses also made some victims feel that life was no longer worth living.
- According to Timothy J Legg, about 1.4 million Americans thought about committing suicide in 2019. Although some of these people received counsels and rescinded their decisions, nevertheless, about 47,000 still committed the act. This is 3 percent of the total who had conceived the idea of killing themselves. The nexus between the menace of suicide and the need for proactive action indicates that the more people receive counsel on issues pertaining to life, the less would be the probability of suicide incidents. It therefore behooves on government institutions to strengthen existing counseling departments. For instance, the Nigerian Navy practices what is called the Divisional Systems which offers platform for personnel to seek counsel on issues of several particulars.
- The application of a concept or theory will be adopted to drive in the objectives of this paper. The one selected amongst others is the concept of attention. Olfa Ben Azouz, described attention as the ability to actively process specific information in the environment while tuning out other details. The information could be from observations in the behaviour of a family member or friend, acquaintance, colleague or any familiar person. Attention plays important role in learning and understanding. It is also a basic component of biological reflexes present at birth which helps determine events to be attended to, for survival. For instance, babies attend to environmental stimuli such as loud noises. A touch against the cheek of a baby triggers a reflex, causing the infant to turn head towards the touch to receive nourishment. These orienting reflexes continue to benefit an individual throughout life.
- There are 5 types of attention that determine responses to situations. These include limited attention, sustained, alternating, selective or focused attention. Focused attention involves being suddenly drawn to specifics such as a loud noise, a flash of light or unexpected behavioural change which requires prompt attention or quick action. Teacher Adeola demonstrated this in the next paragraph.
- Adetola is a secondary school teacher. One of her students, Yusuf, began the school year as a quiet, subdued and passive student. He did his work, but hardly participated in class or interacted with the other students. Adeola observed that Yusuf had undergone what, seems like a drastic change in personality: He could barely stay on his seat, was stubborn and exhibited obvious loss of interest in his school works. The teacher became concerned in the gradual change in Yusuf’s behaviour. She was alarmed and took special interest to specifically observe him more closely. She further involved some of his other teachers. It was discovered that these teachers also noticed similar attitudinal change, along with a decline in the quality of his academics works. Adetola told Yusuf that she was worried about him and that she thought he might benefit from talking to someone. She informed the school counsellor who prepared a counselling session with Yusuf to which he kept. Thereafter, Yusuf’s attitude changed for good.
- Adebola noticed a student with a problem and took effective action. Did she prevent a suicide? It was a possibility but for her focused attention and timely response. Nsebong a 15-year-old house maid at Diamond Hill Calabar was not as lucky as Yusuf. Her mistress was not attentive to the indicators leading to Nseobong’s changing attitude until the girl committed suicide by hanging. It was too late when her madam expressed regret for neglecting to act on her recent observations in the girl’s gradual decline and loss of interest in house chores. If this madam had paid attention and took effective action, she probably would have saved a life.
TO BE CONTINUED…