September 15, 2019

Working together to prevent suicide

Working together to prevent suicide


We must accept finite disappointment, but never lose infinite hope – Martin Luther King Jr.

On Tuesday 10th September was the World Suicide Prevention Day.  It may have been missed by many but it is imperative that the world take notice (and Nigeria in particular, take notice )and that  we continue to raise awareness of a stigma and taboo that is not often spoken about extensively in our communities, homes and institutions.

The fact is,suicide is everyone’s business and we as a nation should work together to prevent suicide. Our health organisation and government should prioritise suicide prevention as a health and social concern.


Protecting Nigerians from Dichlorvos? How about protecting mental health?(Opens in a new browser tab)

According to studies, globally, a person dies every 40 seconds by suicide and up to 25 times as many again make a suicide attempt. There are also many more people who have been bereaved by suicide or have been close to someone who has made an attempt.

For the next couple of years the World Suicide Prevention Day targeting the global community: to encourage everyone to engage with each other and to join together to spread awareness of suicide prevention. Suicide prevention remains a universal challenge. Every year, suicide is among the top 20 leading causes of death globally for people of all ages. It is responsible for over 800,000 deaths, which equates to one suicide every 40 seconds.


Stigma, particularly surrounding mental disorders and suicide, means many people thinking of taking their own life or who have attempted suicide are not seeking help and are therefore not getting the help they need. The prevention of suicide has not been adequately addressed due to a lack of awareness of suicide as a major public health problem and the taboo in many societies to openly discuss it. To date, only a few countries have included suicide prevention among their health priorities and only 38 countries report having a national suicide prevention strategy.

Raising community awareness and breaking down the taboo is important for countries to make progress in preventing suicide.

Crucially, every life lost represents someone’s partner, child, parent, friend or colleague. For each suicide approximately 135 people suffer intense grief or are otherwise affected. This amounts to 108 million people per year who are profoundly impacted by suicidal behaviour. Suicidal behaviour includes suicide, and also encompasses suicidal ideation and suicide attempts. For every suicide, 25 people make a suicide attempt and many more have serious thoughts of suicide.

  • Close to 800 000 people die due to suicide every year.
  • For every suicide there are many more people who attempt suicide every year. A prior suicide attempt is the single most important risk factor for suicide in the general population.
  • Suicide is the second leading cause of death among 15-29 year-olds.
  • 79% of global suicides occur in low- and middle-income countries.
  • Ingestion of pesticide, hanging and firearms are among the most common methods of suicide globally.

Suicide is a serious public health problem; however, suicides are preventable with timely, evidence-based and often low-cost interventions. For national responses to be effective, a comprehensive multispectral suicide prevention strategy is needed.

In the WHO Mental Health Action Plan 2013–2020, WHO Member States have committed themselves to working towards the global target of reducing the suicide rate in countries by 10% by 2020.

If these data  sounds far fetched and you feel removed from such tragedies, you should still care.

We all have heard about the insecticide, Sniper, is mostly used as a means to commit suicide. The accessibility of this insecticide makes it easy for those wanting to end their life possible. Suicide does not discriminate ; young,old,rich,poor, Regardless of tribe, religion ,anyone no matter their circumstances and standing can become suicidal.. The people that are left behind, are affected too. Their deaths make daily news fodder and of course, people judge and make their opinion why the person chose to end their  life.

Shockingly too often we read about victims such as;  a 19-year-old girl, Uche Obiora, allegedly took Sniper at her boyfriend’s house, which is a street away from Saka’s grandmother’s house. Another  Chukwuemeka Akachi, a 400-level student of the Department of English and Literary Studies, University of Nigeria, Nsukka, (UNN) committed suicide.

We need to be more understanding and create an awareness as to why someone may want to end their lives.

Young men between the ages of 20 and 40 years are more likely to commit suicide.

Studies have shown that when changes  to access to  tools to commit suicide are tightened, this will reduce rates of suicide.

According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), while the link between suicide and mental disorders (in particular, depression and alcohol use disorders) is well established in high-income countries, many suicides happen impulsively in moments of crisis with a breakdown in the ability to deal with life stresses, such as financial problems, relationship break-up or chronic pain and illness.

In addition, experiencing conflict, disaster, violence, abuse, or loss and a sense of isolation are strongly associated with suicidal behaviour. Suicide rates are also high amongst vulnerable groups who experience discrimination and by far the strongest risk factor for suicide is a previous suicide attempt.  (As you can see, present condition in Nigeria is rife for suicide).

It is estimated that around 20 per cent of global suicides are due to pesticide self-poisoning, most of which occur in rural agricultural areas in low- and middle-income countries. Other common methods of suicide are hanging and firearms.

In the era of social media, there are more younger people taking their lives. Young people’s lives are more scrutinised and they also have unrealistic expectations on how they look and who they look up to,this may not be healthy and cause them to feel bad about themselves.

We know for sure that previous attempts is a predictor of future suicide and are more at risk.

It is important to give people hope and we should ensure that people don’t give up hope.

Knowing the warning signs for suicide and how to get help can help save lives.

Here are 5 steps you can take to #BeThe1To help someone in emotional pain:

  1. ASK: “Are you thinking about killing yourself?” It’s not an easy question but studies show that asking at-risk individuals if they are suicidal does not increase suicides or suicidal thoughts.
  2. KEEP THEM SAFE: Reducing a suicidal person’s access to highly lethal items or places is an important part of suicide prevention. While this is not always easy, asking if the at-risk person has a plan and removing or disabling the lethal means can make a difference.
  3. BE THERE: Listen carefully and learn what the individual is thinking and feeling. Research suggests acknowledging and talking about suicide may in fact reduce rather than increase suicidal thoughts.

HELP THEM CONNECT: Mentally Aware Nigeria. +2348060101157

Email:[email protected]

  1. You can also help make a connection with a trusted individual like a family member, friend, spiritual advisor, or mental health professional.
  2. STAY CONNECTED: Staying in touch after a crisis or after being discharged from care can make a difference. Studies have shown the number of suicide deaths goes down when someone follows up with the at-risk person.


We can all help:Ask directly about suicide

Don’t be afraid to ask the question: ‘Are you having suicidal thoughts?’

The word ‘suicide’ can feel scary, but being specific and direct with your language is important. It’s easy to confuse one person’s ‘feeling down’ with another person’s serious depressive period, and all too tempting for people to dismiss their feelings with that class line of ‘I’m fine’.

Ask directly so you can know if the person is at risk of suicide.

‘There is still a taboo around talking about suicide which can make it even harder for people experiencing these feelings to open up and feel understood,’ says Mind’s guide to supporting someone who feels suicidal.

‘Direct questions about suicide like ‘Are you having suicidal thoughts?’ or ‘Have you felt like you want to end your life?’  what ever you do, dont make judgements, listen and help them get help.

Try these questions

Ruth Sutherland, CEO at Samaritans, recommends three questions that anyone can ask someone who may be experiencing suicidal thoughts:

  • Have you talked to anyone else about this?
  • Would you like to get some help?
  • Would you like me to come with you?

You don’t need to be an expert in mental health to help someone who’s struggling – simply offering to help and to listen could save their life.

This will help their recovery, that and non judgemental support.

The best way to not feel hopeless is to get up and do something. Don’t wait for good things to happen to you. If you go out and make some good things happen, you will fill the world with hope, you will fill yourself with hope -Barack Obama

Suicides are preventable. There are a number of measures that can be taken at population, sub-population and individual levels to prevent suicide and suicide attempts. These include:

  • reducing access to the means of suicide (e.g. pesticides, firearms, certain medications);
  • reporting by media in a responsible way;
  • school-based interventions;
  • introducing alcohol policies to reduce the harmful use of alcohol;
  • early identification, treatment and care of people with mental and substance use disorders, chronic pain and acute emotional distress;
  • training of non-specialized health workers in the assessment and management of suicidal behaviour;
  • follow-up care for people who attempted suicide and provision of community support.

When you have lost hope, you have lost everything. And when you think all is lost, when all is dire and bleak, there is always hope- Pittacus Lore


For more information on suicide prevention:

If you are affected by any of the contents in this column please speak to someone or contact 70, Olonode Street, off Alagomeji Yaba Lagos.

[email protected]


I hope you find this helpful and please share with others. The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline’s number in your phone so it’s there when you need it: 1-800-273-TALK (8255).