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World Mental Health Day: Collapse of extended family system causes suicide

By Dennis Agbo, Enugu

 Medical Director of Federal Neuropsychiatric Hospital Enugu, Dr. Monday Igwe has identified the collapse of Africa’s age-long practice of extended family system as a part cause of the recent resurgence of suicides.

World Mental Health Day

Igwe, however, identified other causes of suicide to include educational problems, the high rate of unemployment level, with a lot of financial stress and burden on the family.

“People who cannot coupe in solving their problems of living from day to day will go down with depression and ultimately end their lives.”

The Psychiatric Chief made the identifications when the hospital celebrated the 2019 World Mental Health Day with the theme “Mental Health Promotion and Suicide Prevention,” in Enugu on Thursday.

Igwe said that Suicide was a global issue, very common in Nigeria and which statistic shows that in every 40 seconds somebody dies through suicide and globally about 800, 000 people die annually by suicide.

He said “We are worried because suicide is a preventable issue. If we get to talk about it, if we tell people that they can be helped, we’ll go a long way in preventing suicide.

The causes are multi-factorial but it’s noted to be common among people around ages of 15 and 29 and it’s the second leading cause of death amongst them. The causes centre on people getting depressed. When somebody is depressed he has a feeling of hopelessness and worthlessness.

“His mood is so low that feels there is no reason for him to live again and depression can come from people that have issues in life; either in social activities, educational challenges, issues with finance, even at home.

People that commit suicide in the universities mainly centre around examination failure which is a loss event in their lives and so they are not able to coupe and they don’t have somebody to fall back on. They internalize their problems and feel that they are the cause of their own problem and that the only solution is to end their lives.

“Another cause is unemployment level, with a lot of financial stress and burden on the family. People who cannot coupe in solving their problem of living from day to day will go down with depression and ultimately end their lives.”

He further disclosed that about 10 to 15 percent of the population suffer depression at any point in their lives, nothing that people who are depressed would not come out telling anyone they were depressed.

“It is the people around them that can notice that they have socially withdrawn; that they are no long carrying on with their daily activities; that they wear low mood and so it’s our duty to bring them to us (psychiatrists) for treatment.

“We give them drugs, psychological treatment, we also expose them to rehabilitation and we have social workers that can go the extra mile outside the hospital to address their issues if the issues are at home. Government and families have roles to play, and those of us in mental health have roles to play.

“Previously, we used to practice extended family system and people were their brothers’ keepers. Then, when one had a problem, others were there to help, but because of the gradual disintegration of the extended family system, people are now left to leave on their own, to fend for themselves independently and that is a big challenge when they have overwhelming stress that they cannot contain.

“So it’s a duty that is not left for any particular person, it’s for the family, the church, the government. The policymakers should also make policies that will make people to be employed, make people to be engaged and leave useful lives,” Igwe said.

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