…says victims need support not prosecution
By Chioma Obinna & Chinelo Azike
As the World Health Organisation, WHO, says every 40 seconds a person dies of suicide, psychiatric doctors at the Federal Neuropsychiatric Hospital Yaba, FNPHY, Lagos have called for the decriminalisation of suicide, saying the victims need support and not prosecution.
According to WHO, close to 800, 000 people die due to suicide every year and suicide is the second leading cause of death among 15-29 year-olds in the world currently.
In her submission during the 2019 World Mental Health Day symposium with the theme: Mental Health Promotion as a Tool to Curbing the Rising Tides of Suicide in Nigeria” organised by the hospital, the Medical Director, FNPHY, Dr. Oluwayemi Ogun said Nigeria should stop criminalising suicide to reduce stigma and encourage victims to seek appropriate treatment in a mental health facility.
Ogun who lamented that suicide has become a major threat added that suicides are preventable with timely interventions and support from Society.
“Nigerian law criminalises suicide. It is one-year imprisonment in Nigeria for anybody who wants to commit suicide. We need to decriminalized suicide to encourage victims to seek treatment.
“WHO says every 40 seconds globally one suicide happens and every year about one million people die from suicide. The fact is that nobody has done any study to see the trend. What we can say is that the reportage of suicide is now on the increase.”
Ogun also decried the level of stigma associated with suicide in Nigeria, adding that many families and victims have been denied access to treatment due to issues around stigma.
“For every suicide that happens, about six victims are affected. The family members are affected too when these things are shown raw because they can easily be stigmatised.”
Speaking, a Consultant Psychiatrist/ Psychiatric Rehabilitation specialist, FNPHY, Dr. Veronica Nyamali said depression contributes 90 per cent to suicide while other mental disorders share the remaining 10 per cent.
“In developed countries suicide has been decriminalised but in Nigeria, it is still a crime and that contributes to why people don’t like to talk about suicide. When it has happened and the person is dead they will quietly settle it within the family. It is not reported and for us professionals, we are all saying that these people need help rather than facing the authority that these people have committed a crime. It is an area that we need to look into so that it can be addressed and people can get help.”
She urged media practitioners to be mindful of sensationalising reports about suicide as people who are suicidal may copy any method mentioned in their reports.“