life stressors to blame – Experts
By Chioma Obinna & Arinola Kolade
In recent times, cases of suicide have filled the media space. Also commonplace are stories of homicide – husband killing wife and wife killing husband. There are also stories of people jumping into the lagoon.
Only last weekend, the story of a yet to be identified woman, said to have jumped into the lagoon from the Third Mainland Bridge, Lagos, made headlines. Concerned Nigerians are of the view that Nigeria is gradually becoming a fertile ground for suicide and homicide.
There are also stories of domestic violence in varying proportions.
In a particular instance, a 33-year-old mother of two, Mrs. Sokari West, from Buguma, Asari-Toru Local Government Area of Rivers State, was said to have been killed by her husband for allegedly refusing to cook.
It was gathered that the victim, killed on her birthday, had gone out to celebrate with friends instead of cooking for her husband and returned late at night.
On returning home, a quarrel broke out with her spouse. She was allegedly stabbed to death. In another incident, one Mrs. Udeme Odibi allegedly butchered her husband, Otike, in their home at Diamond Estate, Sangotedo, Lagos.
The suspect was said to have killed the deceased with a knife, cut off his genitals and then attempted suicide.
Many reasons have been adduced for these deaths.
Experts say people do not commit suicide solely because of pain.
They also do because they don’t believe there is a reason to live following significant drops in the level of neuro transmitters in their brains.
According to the experts, these actions may be as a result of life stressors which affect the neuro transmitters of victims’ brains and lead to depression and other mental problems.
Sunday Vanguard reports:
Will you end your life?
According to 32-year- old Calista Onyegbula, adultery is one major reason to commit suicide.
“I cannot bear the shame if my husband finds out that our children do not belong to him. For any other problem, I will endure and live for my children”, she said.
Unlike Calista, Prince Eze, 28, believes that the economic situation of the country was enough reason for those committing suicide to do so.
“Why will a young man finish from school and doesn’t have a job? Why should a man who is supposed to be in-charge of his family unable to do so simply because he does not have a job? Why will anyone not take to suicide when your child is sick and you cannot afford to buy medicine? Only joblessness can lead to death or hearing that your mother is diagnosed of cancer,” he said.
Far from Calista and Prince’s views, Juliet Egbe described people killing themselves as wicked and selfish, saying they deserve to suffer worse things than death.
But a study published in the Journal of Postgraduate Medicine by SV Jaiswal and colleagues found that suicide is a psychiatric emergency and stressors of life and social variables (like marital status, family, and social support) are among the determinants. The study also found that hopelessness and suicidal intent are among the psychological variables that have shown promise in the prediction of suicide. It found that lethality of suicide attempt increases with increase in hopelessness.
Meanwhile, in a review of ‘Life Events, Stress and Depression’ by Professor Christopher Tennant of the Department of Psychological Medicine, Royal North Shore Hospital, it was found that stressors, which are major life events, are associated with greater initial severity of depressive symptoms both in adult patients and adolescents.
Sadly, these stressors have been linked to onset of depression which is a major cause of suicide. According to a report published in ScienceDirect, depression, a life threatening and widespread psychiatric disorder, has an incidence of about 340 million cases worldwide, and ranks among the five causes of global disease burden. It has also been estimated that, by 2030, depression will represent one of the three leading causes of burden of disease worldwide.
Corroborating these findings in a chat with Sunday Vanguard, Coordinator, Suicide Research and Prevention Initiative, SURPIN, Lagos University Teaching Hospital, LUTH, Idi-Araba, Lagos, Dr Raphael Emeka Ogbolu, said life stressors are major factors that cause the neuro transmitters of individuals to drop resulting to depression and feelings of hopelessness which, in turn, compel a person to commit suicide.
Ogbolu, who explained that neuro transmitters are chemicals present in everybody’s brain, said more than 90 per cent of those who commit suicide do so due to depression.
The Consultant Psychiatrist explained: “For every individual, the levels of these chemicals change when one fails an exam or an interview and he feels bad. That feeling of not being happy is because those chemicals have dropped and this is a part of our everyday life.
“When the level of neuro transmitters in the brain drops to a certain level, it leads to symptoms of depression and if that is not detected early and treated, the feeling of hopelessness sets in and the person begins to think of suicide. The largest contributor to suicide is depression”.
According to him, once an individual begins to have sleep changes, appetite changes, and the person becomes sad and loses interest in things he should naturally be interested in, gets tired easily, has poor concentration, and the way he reasons changes, such a person is close to committing suicide,” he stated. He disclosed that those things that can lower the level of the neuro transmitters include childhood trauma and misfortunes which could be financial.
Ogbolu, who differentiated between the usual sadness and the sadness experienced by a depressed person, said: “The difference between the sadness that we experience occasionally and the sadness of depression is that the level of the chemicals goes back up but a person who is depressed does not have the level of the neurons going back up, it is not something that a person purposely brings upon himself.”
Giving hope that these chemicals can be raised through medication, he said: “One cannot use his/her will to raise the level of those chemicals. There are medications to raise the level of these neuros. Some people inherit the tendency of these chemicals to be low (i.e. they inherit the predisposition to depression). This means that these persons are likely to experience depression if the stressors of life are too much for them.”
The psychiatrist added that having genetic predisposition does not mean that the person will come down with depression but he is usually advised to watch the stress in his life.
For those with such genetic disposition, according to him, they should avoid the ones they can’t and manage the stress well. “Some persons are more resilient than others; that is why they will go through things that are more severe than those who are depressed and would still not experience depression”, Ogbolu said.
He stressed the need for proper care from childhood which helps to build resilience in people, noting that people who received proper care in childhood are less susceptible to depression. The consultant traced some suicide attempts to drug abuse, adding that people who abuse drug try to suppress their depression with drug, but it only pushes them further down.
“They feel hopeless and then decide to commit suicide. In the process of intoxicating oneself, people die because the drugs are too hard for them; even if it was not deliberate but was self- orchestrated it is also considered suicide.”
On the increasing killing of spouses across the country, Ogbolu noted that homicide starts from spousal abuse which leads to violence.
“Domestic violence, including emotional abuse (i.e. the person sees nothing good in the spouse), physical abuse, economic abuse and social abuse, also contributes to depression”, he said.
“When the spouse is persistent with the abuse, the receiver snaps and reacts. The abuser could also be abusing because he/she is under the influence of some substance, in some cases the abuser is the depressed one.”
Ogbolu called for decriminalization of suicide according to World Health Organisation’s recommendation, arguing that the fact that suicide is a crime in Nigeria and attracts one year imprisonment only worsens depression in victims.
The consultant condemned the act of being hostile to a child or anybody, saying they were seeing more depression among school children due to academic pressures.
According to him, parents should caution schools on the way they pressure children in academic works in a bid to have good results as it affects their mental health even in adulthood.
“More than 60 per cent of those who have mental disorders started from when they were young and in school. We have a lot of adolescent depression these days. Due to academic pressures in the past one year, we have been seeing children killing themselves,” Ogbolu said. The psychiatrist stressed the need to reach out to people experiencing depression with words of encouragement as they are in a state of deciding to commit suicide.
“At LUTH, we have hotlines – 08058820777 and 09030000741 – through which people can ask questions. If professional help is needed, the hotlines are open. It started since last year March and there have been a lot of calls. It provides people an opportunity to speak out. There is also need for massive public enlightenment because a lot of people around us are depressed without knowing they are depressed.”