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Nigeria Is Facing Student Suicide Pandemic
Too often, we hear reports of young people taking their own lives and we find ourselves asking what could have been done to avert these self-destructive acts. Across Nigeria there is need for schools at all levels to have a comprehensive approach to preventing a tragedy like suicide.
The inadequate attention given to suicide by the government and educational institutions is alarming, as it continues to happen on a frequent basis. Even as Nigeria has one of the highest suicide rates in Africa.
The latest being a 200 level Political Science student of Adekunle Ajasin University Akungba Akoko, Ondo State, Feranmi Fasunle Omowumi, who reportedly committed suicide by swallowing a poisonous content with food in her room.
Just before the suicide of Ms. Omowumi, was that of Adedeji Emmanuel a 200-level student of Management and Accounting at the Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife who reportedly committed suicide after swallowing a pesticide.
There is the March incident, involving a 300-level student, Daniel Mba of Biochemistry Department, at the University of Nigeria Nsukka, who was caught cheating with his phone during an examination, reportedly jumped from the third floor of a story to end his life. Before he jumped for suicide purpose a check of his room reportedly showed rat poison, bleach containers and syringes that he had supposedly injected into his body but failed to result to immediate death. He died from his injuries.
Then there is the February incident, Abdullahi Bashir, a final year Mathematics student of the Federal University, Dutse, Jigawa State committed suicide by reportedly ingesting an insecticide after accusing his girlfriend of cheating on him on Valentine’s Day. Many others have followed before these ones as seen below:
Yet suicide often remain a low priority for institutions, governments, and policymakers.
Suicide is a complicated human behavior. There are various risk factors for suicide as they relate to youths. Feeling suicidal can result from personal conditions that combine to make a person feel hopeless, believe that it is impossible to change a situation, a significant personal loss or number of losses and defeats taken personally, and low self-esteem.
Financial difficulties, parental illness or death, been bullied or ridiculed, trying to escape feelings of rejection, hurt, or loss, a history of untreated or treated trauma, depression, anxiety, emotional outburst, bipolar disorder, or other mental illness, social isolation, lack of support, inability to cope with gender identity issues, national disorderliness and restlessness, situational crises like traumatic death of a loved one, physical or sexual abuse, believing there is no hope for feeling better, alcohol or other drug use, and having easy access to the means for dying, such as hanging tools, knives, guns, and insecticides.
Amongst persons and youths at risk there are clear warning signs of suicide such as talking or writing about suicide or death, giving direct verbal cues, such as “I wish I were dead” and “I’m going to end it all”, isolating him-or herself from friends and family, exhibiting a sudden and unexplained improvement in mood after being depressed or withdrawn, neglecting his or her appearance and hygiene, obtaining a means (such as an insecticide or another methods of hurting him- or herself such as prescriptions or medications.
To better respond to the warning signs in student such as acting out, withdrawing, committing destructive or aggressive acts toward him- or herself or others, schools should have knowledgeable counselor, nurse or physician, psychologist, or social worker to ensure appropriate, confidential, and quick assessment, and treatment. In most cases many persons that talk or plan suicide do not want to die. As such a troubled student is more likely to open to you about self-destructive thoughts or actions, so having a trained counselor or peer listener can counter the person’s sense of hopelessness and helplessness.
When a school counselor, nurse, physician, psychologist, social worker, peer, or other concerned persons observe behavior that indicates there is a peculiar problem, it is okay to say something like, “I’ve noticed that you are going through some rough times. Are you feeling so bad that you are thinking about suicide?” or “Sometimes when people feel sad, they have thoughts of harming or killing themselves. Have you had such thoughts?” If the student says “yes,” it is important to not non-judgmental, do not debate whether suicide is right or wrong, do not lecture on the value of life. Do not ever swear to secrecy, do not act shocked, this will put distance between you. The helper should show interest and support. Be persistent, consistent, and firm, and make sure that the student gets the help that he or she may need.
Be prepared to act if you believe that a student is in danger of harming him- or herself such as taking the student to the counseling office, reassuring him/her that counseling staff know what needs to be done to get the professional help needed to deal with these feelings safely. Do not leave a student at imminent risk of suicide alone If you have any reason to suspect that a student may attempt suicide or otherwise engage in self-harm, it is important to remain with the student or see that the student is in a secure environment, supervised by caring adult until professional help can be obtained. Let the student know that you care that he or she is not alone, and that you are there to help.
Universities and other schools need to have mental health counseling services, and suicide and depression awareness programs, including training dormitory resident assistants, custodians, security guards and peers to be on the lookout for troubled students. Off campus students should gain from these preventive services. There is need for increased stress-reduction programs to help students manage various types of stress, so it does not become unbearable.
Students, teachers, instructors, staff, administrators, and families need to be educated about stigma attached to mental health often cause students not to seek help. Educational institutions should create systems of accommodations that may include allowing the student to take a reduced course load or complete alternative assignments and allowing the student to postpone assignments and exams; especially those having difficulties managing stress.
Schools should establish policies and procedures that permits students to take voluntary leaves of absence for mental health reasons.
Establish policies that promote enjoyable, lifelong physical, social and wellness activities among young people.
There is immediate need for national, State, Municipal and schools to have Suicide Prevention Lifeline that is a free, 24/7 confidential service that can provide people and students in suicidal crisis or emotional distress, information, support, and resources. Crisis Text Line can be developed in form of a free text-message service with a trained crisis counselor any time.
Nigeria remains one of the few nations with anti-suicide law, instead of continuing with this colonial type of law, suicide attempt should be decriminalized. Persons with suicidal behaviors must be seen as in need of psychological and medical help rather than legal punishment.
Very often suicidal behavior is a cry for help. As such suicide is often preventable among students (and staff) if schools and administrators just do that which is right.
Prof. John Egbeazien Oshodi, an American based Police/Prison Scientist and Forensic/Clinical/Legal Psychologist. A government Consultant on matters of forensic-clinical adult/child psychological services in the USA; Chief Educator and Clinician at the Transatlantic Enrichment and Refresher Institute, an Online Lifelong Center for Personal, Professional and Career Development. The Founder of the Dr. John Egbeazien Oshodi Foundation, Center for Psychological Health and Behavioral Change in African settings especially. In 2011, he introduced the State-of-the-Art Forensic Psychology into Nigeria through N.U.C and the Nasarawa State University where he served in the Department of Psychology as an Associate Professor. The Development Professor and International Liaison Consultant at the African University of Benin, and a Virtual Faculty at the ISCOM University, Benin of Republic. Author of over 36 academic publications/creations, at least 200 public opinion writeups on African issues, and various books.
Prof. Oshodi was born in Uromi, Edo State, Nigeria to parents with almost 40 years of police/corrections service, respectively. Periodically visits home for scholastic and humanitarian works. Jos5930458@aol.com
America has a long history of racial prejudice and spoils of racism shaped by a history of different paths of accepting immigrants into America. As a nation, America remains dynamic, by definition and practice; in the process, it is shaped by the constant battle between its darkest impulses and better angels.
America, known for its oppressive influences of persons of black skin, in its dynamic manner allows for the affirmation of a black body into the American presidency, a move that amazingly results into a virtue of the American exceptionalism. First, in line with the society’s changing spaces was the ascension of the presidency of Barack Obama, the son of a black immigrant from Kenya, Barack Hussein Obama, Sr., who later became an American trained economist. Secondly, is Kamala Harris, the incoming Vice-President, the daughter of Donald Jasper Harris, a black immigrant from Jamaica, a known American trained economist.
A key to understanding this unique political marriage in America, is the fitting text of Jon Meacham, “The Soul of America: The Battle for our Better Angels”. As a Psychologist, I reason more with the better side of America, in terms of inclusion which inspired this political marriage within the American presidency.
Obama in his own way responded to many known and unknown problems regarding Blacks historical struggles. Harris motivated by this political marriage will equally respond to the enduring racial challenges of blacks and other marginalized minority communities in America.
The better angels of America hopefully will embrace America with the spirit and practice of inclusiveness, diversity, opportunities, and equal access within the American economy.
In appreciation of this political marriage, improving lives through access to better health, education, jobs, and other opportunities will hopefully be attended to, and gain full advocacy.
This political marriage will hopefully mirror other changes in terms of more blacks putting further value on higher education, income attainment, interpersonal support, and community development.
Psychologically, this political marriage has not only brought good feeling to many American communities, but it has also allowed many to feel better about themselves. This political marriage reminds many in America that the old emotional wounds of racial discrimination and ethnic rejection can be partly healed through the strengths and connections from the unique political wedding. While this political marriage cannot be substituted for the observable highly supportive marriage between Barack and Michelle, and between Douglas and Kamala; America will forever be changed in a more encompassing manner.
John Egbeazien Oshodi, is a Florida Clinical/Forensic Psychologist and an Online Development Professor and International Liaison Consultant to African University of Benin, is the author of ” A Glance at American Presidents in Black Life: George Washington to George W. Bush, A to Z”
A colloquial Psycho-social explanation on the above Nigerian matter by Prof John Egbeazien Oshodi
I did not fully know then. Read this story to get what I am saying.
I was on holidays from my secondary school. Around 6 am in the morning I can hear my father and my mother speaking in a very low voice in Hausa language (they do this when they do not want the children to understand them). I knew something was wrong.
My mother started weeping. Then with her calm voice she said son get ready to follow your father they just transferred him to where nobody wants to go.
Is not too far from here (Warri) my son get ready. The police driver is waiting. He will drive you and your dad then you will then take a boat to get his new station
He will be the S.O (station officer).
Good God, that woman was naturally brilliant with no formal education due to traditional maltreatment of young females (early marriages). Just like now with these females.
Then I went straight to dad. I said let us go.
We got to the place. A swampy riverine area. A small building with two adjacent rooms. One side is the police post. The other side was our room and parlor.
Hmmm. Come see afternoon mosquitoes. As worse as the night ones.
He had two policemen under him.
We cooked and eat beans day in and day out.
After a few days I asked my father a lefty handed man while writing on his diary (a habit I never got into).
I said why are you all the way here from Warri city.
He looked at me intently and intensely.
“Ejonny (john). It is called retaliation transfer ” i was only 14 or 15 years old. Sir, please explain.
“this senior officer is serving Benin city headquarters, but he is a native of Warri each week he visits he wants us in Warri to come greet him…give him something. I stopped visiting.:”
My son this is the result.
We only spent less than 10 days in the swamp as a signal came from Lagos that my father should return to Warri asap. There was a young senior officer that had served under my father but was now in a very in a very sensitive position in Lagos the main headquarters. He heard about the abuse of power from my mother whom he took as his second mother (that woman do not play ooo).
Guess what the wicked oga ( so called powerful person) by way of retaliatory transfer reportedly was moved from Benin city headquarters to a training school as the new ogakpatakpa. No more oppressed officers coming to see him with special “gifts” This was in the 1970s oooo.
So the psychology of emotional transfers, a motif in diabolical or unobjectionable institutional environments started long time ago oooooo.
20 years later while my father was visiting me and my older brother in USA having been shot in the eye by arm robbers he saw books like ” police management, prison management, probation and parole administration, criminal investigation, criminal law…” he began to scream. Son I am a police trainer we need this in Nigeria.
I was doing my master’s degree then.
He said you will come home ooo.. they are waiting for you… meaning police SPO ( senior police officer) training college.
I said sure I go come. I said dad I saw what you and many others went through. That is why I am a police scientist. He screamed again.
I really wanted to return home during this military era.
As usual my mom who was very spiritual and bold said God forbid. In letters after letters she said no way oooo
This was in 1987.
I wrote back. Mom I spoke to the training commandant I told him I have degrees in police and prison management/science. He said after my training I will become their lecturer as no one has such degrees.
” I don’t care your father’s people, the whole country (mind you there is no state she has not lived in as a police wife) something is wrong here. You must not come back to this gutter or I will do something to myself:
My father after many months returned home.
I did not tell him my talk with mom.
As I started ruminating on my mother’s warnings and recalling the insane institutional behaviors I saw as a child… the retaliations especially I decided to study psychological medicine with a focus on clinical psychology, police/prison psychology, forensic psychology. With a PhD in my hand. I visited Nigeria after 10 years of sojourn.
My father now a retiree said son he is waiting for you. The commandant. I met him he liked me and was happy to see me. I promised to come back the following year (1992).
Someone told my mother the plan. she waited till I got back to America. Saw me off from Uromi to Lagos airport.
First phone call. ” my son that your father with their nonsense plan (she is from idumague of uromi.. bold and proud people). If you come then see what I will do to myself… my son I know you I know you like book, if you mistakenly write or say anything they will retaliate… they poison each other, they petition each other it is a war…”
I took my mother’s advice.
After she visited America returned home and was killed because the there was no light during a minor surgery in a Benin city hospital in 1999. I have been in and out of Nigeria silently since then….
Back to this female officers. What crime or offense did they commit in the age of the social media?
I ask again ogakpatakpas and madams (so called powerful persons) of Nigeria tell me ooooooooooo.
Let me go and sleep it is almost 3 am my time
We will get there institutionally and democratically in 59 years. Rest in power pap and mom.
Prof John Egbeazien Oshodi is the founder of Psychoafricalytic Psychology and expert is Democratic issues in emerging societies like Nigeria.
Psychoafricalysis or Psychoafricalytic Psychology also known as Oshodian Psychology is a theory of inner mental processes, conscious intentions, observable actions, formation of human personality, perceptual orientations, cultural undertakings, spiritual presentations, biochemical variants in the African perspectives (Oshodi, 2012).
Oshodi, J. E. (2012). History of Psychology in the Black Experience: Perspectives Then and Now: A psychology in the perspective of the history of the Africans and people of African descent. Lanham, MD: University Press of America.
In reality, the Federal Ministry of Justice should have its Office of Public Prosecution fully developed with a functioning Sex Crimes Unit working closely with establishments like the Nigeria Police, Ministry of Women Affairs and Social Development, Youth Development and other related agencies in order to ensure the successful investigation and prosecution of all felony sex crimes as well as protecting victims fully.
It should be noted that mental health care is far from perfect in first world countries when it comes to addressing the needs of insane offenders but what entails in a promising nation like Nigeria needs urgent diagnostic study with the outcomes aggressively put to full implementation and usage.
It is an undeniable fact that mentally disturbed persons with substance abuse disorders have more extensive criminal problems and demonstrate a higher level of risks and needs when compared with persons with mental illness alone.
In comparison to another emerging nation like Ghana with a comprehensive Mental Health Act of 2012, the existing Mental Health Act of 1959 from Britain remains in place in Nigeria followed by here and there formulated mental health policies of the 1990’s especially.
As such the vulnerable like the mentally ill criminal offenders are cut out from modern and commonsense ways to approach their custody and care;instead a person deemed to be a civil lunatic as described by British lingo and others with mental and criminal backgrounds fill up our custodial spaces such as police cells, and prisons minus the jail system which does not exist in Nigeria.
All this is happening as there are no legally or reasonably bound provisions for interaction between the mental health system and the Criminal Justice outfits.
A current observation of how mental health service is provided to the criminally insane offenders shows that the federal government under the leading role of the healthcare decision makers continue to lack the basic practice of forensic psychology in regards to the application of scientific, procedural, or specialized knowledge of psychology to the criminal justice system for the benefit of mental health consumers.
By law and policy, all the regional psychiatric teaching/specialist and general hospitals lack forensic hospital facility or units. The nation lacks forensic based evaluation and treatment centers like public forensic hospitals. Our police, judiciary and the courts and the prison system who are still in their old ways due to dearth of extant or current mental health laws/policies, lack guidance on forensic based healthcare services.
Consequently,the provision of quality assessment and treatment of patients with criminal status remain wholly poor and inadequate.
We have no system designed to fully integrate forensic based treatment and security in behavior management environments, thereby jeopardizing the safety of patients, staff, and the general public.
We have no designated system or facility that offers a wide range of health care services for people who need emergency mental health care around the country.
Since the Federal Ministry of Health is the foundation for the sustainability of quality healthcare and upright governance in the nation, it should serve fully as the main watch dog in the society that protects the mentally ill especially those with legal challenges.Under an atmosphere of collaborative spirit between the Federal Ministry of Health and the criminal justice system, the courts especially, workable and measurable strategies for effective and humane management of the mentally ill offenders are needed now.
President Muhammadu Buhari continues to emphasizes to Nigerians to expect more commonsense approach to issues such as mental healthcare, therefore let us see meaningful and updated policy change and practices by the government and attitudinal modification in our criminal justice system in order to reverse the current plight of the mentally disturbed persons and those with substance abuse disorders marked with criminal acts.
Dr. John EgbeazienOshodi, a Florida Forensic/ Clinical Psychologist writes from Abuja, Nigeria. Jos5930458@aol.com
This article was originally published on January 4, 2016 in The Nigerian Voice Online Newspaper.