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