By Prof. Charles Adeyinka Adisa MD.
THE growing incidence of suicide among Nigerians has become worrisome to the extent that psychiatrists and other physicians have called for high index of suspicion for signs and symptoms of depression among their patients.
According to the World Health Organisation, WHO, there are 322 million people living with depression in the world. In the WHO suicide ranking, Nigeria, with 15.1 suicides per 100,000 population per year, is ranked the 30th most suicide-prone out of 183 nations in the world.
Because Christians are usually more open about their plights, I will concern myself in this essay with the involvement of Christians in the saga, and wrap up with what the doctors say.
A young medical doctor took his life early this year. He happened to be a committed Christian with his entire family.
Last week, a Director in Kogi state Civil service who was being owed several months salaries allegedly hung himself on account of this, and left a suicide note for his hapless wife who had just delivered a set of triplets after 17 years of barrenness.
What was supposed to be a joyful occasion turned out to be a disaster. He also was said to be a Christian and in fact left a suicide note laced with Bible verses from the book of Psalms.
The economic hardships, killing and murder of Christians and others by insurgents under the pretext of religion, and the apparent government lack of will and effective strategies to address these issues, are, most probably, contributing to this situation.
Christianity with the admonitions and stories of those who had overcome through faith should have prepared us for such hardships and disappointments.
Is it possible that the messages we hear these days from our pulpits ill-prepare our members for these challenging times? Is the mistaken notion that prosperity, earthly wealth and blessings are signs of God’s approval while the opposite is translated as not having enough faith or living the good life of Christianity a causative factor?
Is it also possible that we fail to detect early warning signs of depression in our members and families?
As people of God, we need to prayerfully and deliberately seek out the depressed, confused and those among us who are vulnerable and need help. When we find them, we need to counsel them along the lines of the full gospel as opposed to the bread and butter and other false teachings pervading the air from the spirit of lawlessness. Where necessary, they need to be brought back to true faith through repentance
Next we should introduce these ones to the appropriate medical personnel to guide them to good health. Where we can, as a Church, we should consider putting them back on their feet by finding avenues or jobs for them to ventilate their profession or vocation.
May the good Lord make us our brothers keepers, Amen.
Below is what the WebMD (www.webmd.com) has to say on suicide:
Recognizing Suicidal Behavior
Suicide is not a mental illness in itself, but a serious potential consequence of treatable mental disorders that include major depression, bipolar disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder, borderline personality disorder, schizophrenia, substance use disorders, and anxiety disorders like bulimia and anorexia nervosa.
Suicide Warning Signs
Any of the following could be potential warning signs for suicide:
Excessive sadness or moodiness: Long-lasting sadness, mood swings, and unexpected rage.
Hopelessness: Feeling a deep sense of hopelessness about the future, with little expectation that circumstances can improve.
Sudden calmness: Suddenly becoming calm after a period of depression or moodiness can be a sign that the person has made a decision to end his or her life.
Withdrawal: Choosing to be alone and avoiding friends or social activities also are possible symptoms of depression, a leading cause of suicide. This includes the loss of interest or pleasure in activities the person previously enjoyed.
Changes in personality and/or appearance: A person who is considering suicide might exhibit a change in attitude or behavior, such as speaking or moving with unusual speed or slowness. In addition, the person might suddenly become less concerned about his or her personal appearance.
Dangerous or self-harmful behavior: Potentially dangerous behavior, such as reckless driving, engaging in unsafe sex, and increased use of drugs and/or alcohol might indicate that the person no longer values his or her life.
Recent trauma or life crisis: A major life crises might trigger a suicide attempt. Crises include the death of a loved one or pet, divorce or break-up of a relationship, diagnosis of a major illness, loss of a job, or serious financial problems.
Making preparations: Often, a person considering suicide will begin to put his or her personal business in order. This might include visiting friends and family members, giving away personal possessions, making a will, and cleaning up his or her room or home. Some people will write a note before committing suicide. Some will buy a firearm or other means like poison.
Threatening suicide: From 50% to 75% of those considering suicide will give someone — a friend or relative — a warning sign. However, not everyone who is considering suicide will say so, and not everyone who threatens suicide will follow through with it. Every threat of suicide should be taken seriously.
Who Is Most Likely to Commit Suicide?
Suicide rates are highest in teens, young adults, and the elderly.
White men over the age of 65 have the highest rate of suicide.
Suicide risk also is higher in the following groups:
Older people who have lost a spouse through death or divorce
People who have attempted suicide in the past
People with a family history of suicide
People with a friend or co-worker who committed suicide
People with a history of physical, emotional, or sexual abuse
People who are unmarried, unskilled, or unemployed
People with long-term pain or a disabling or terminal illness
People who are prone to violent or impulsive behavior
People who have recently been released from a psychiatric hospitalization (This often is a very frightening period of transition.)
People in certain professions, such as police officers and health care providers who work with terminally ill patients
People with substance abuse problems
Although women are three times as likely to attempt suicide, men are far more likely to complete the act.
Can Suicide Be Prevented?
Suicide can’t be prevented with certainty, but risks can often be reduced with timely intervention. Research suggests that the best way to prevent suicide is to know the risk factors, be alert to the signs of depression and other mental disorders, recognize the warning signs for suicide, and intervene before the person can complete the process of self-destruction.
What Should I Do if I Think Someone is Suicidal?
People who receive support from caring friends and family and who have access to mental health services are less likely to act on their suicidal impulses than are those who are socially isolated.
If someone you know is exhibiting warning signs for suicide:
Don’t be afraid to ask if he or she is depressed or thinking about suicide.
Ask if he or she is seeing a therapist or taking medication.
Rather than trying to talk the person out of suicide, let him or her know that depression is temporary and treatable.
In some cases, the person just needs to know that someone cares and is looking for the chance to talk about his or her feelings.
You can then encourage the person to seek professional help.
What Should I Do if I See the Warning Signs of Suicide?
If you believe someone you know is in immediate danger of killing himself or herself:
Do not leave the person alone.
If possible, ask for help from friends or other family members.
Ask the person to give you any weapons he or she might have.
Take away or remove sharp objects or anything else that the person could use to hurt himself or herself.
If the person is already in psychiatric treatment, help him or her to contact the doctor or therapist for guidance and help.
Try to keep the person as calm as possible.
Call for help or take the person to an emergency room.
●Adisa is the President of the Nigerian Christian Graduate Fellowship.