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Profile of a suicide bomber

By Sola  Ogundipe

Shortly after the bombing of the Police headquarters in Abuja yesterday , Dr Charles Umeh, Consultant Clinical Psychologist and Lecturer, Department of Psychiatry, Lagos University Teaching Hospital, Idi-Araba, Lagos, commented on the typical profile of a suicide patient. Excerpts:

Several factors could be responsible. Some people have tendencies of being pessimistic in life and there are others who might be depressed without people knowing until they commit suicide. But in this case one cannot say it is as a result of one or the other. Utilising sociological theory, essentially, there are actually two types of suicides —the altruistic suicide and the fatalistic suicide.

Altruistic suicide

The altruistic suicide is carried out by people who are committed to societal causes. They kill themselves for the good of society.
If one looks at the background of a suicide bomber, that person sees suicide as a way out. Suicide bombing is done mainly by religious fanatics who have been brainwashed to believe what they are doing is best for society. The person is convinced that it is more worthwhile to take his or her life to justify the belief in the cause.

It is not a surprise that this incident happened, but just that we do not have such history because Nigerians love themselves so much. But there are some willing to die for the cause of society, but just because they do not have the indoctrination they need to execute what’s in their mind, we may not have been recording these.

Fatalistic suicide

The fatalistic suicide usually occurs among strong believers in a cause and they are of the belief that it is more worthwhile and rewarding to take their own life to justify the belief in the cause. This is what we see more among the religious fanatics. They do this to fight for religious principles.


In Nigeria, we are having a lot of religious fanatics, who on religious grounds are ready to fight on religious principles. Why would someone bomb a police station? For someone to bomb the Police headquarters could be for a cause it could be more of altruistic. Probably the Police have been dealing with such person, and the only way to get back to them is to blow up their headquarters for the cause he believes in.


There could be unresolved issues in the person’s sub-consciousness. What is recommended is cognitive behavioural treatment. Their thinking could be rational so what we do is to restructure the person’s thought pattern in another perspective.

People are disturbed not by things , but by the view they hold of things. If you change some of those thought patterns pushing them into committing suicide, they might not commit suicide again.

Just like when there is a downward trend in someone’s income, the main issue could be to commit suicide, because they are coming down with suicide, when you start having hopeless thoughts that there is nothing there for you again. Such situations are managed with CBT and anti-depressants.


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