Rising Cases Of Suicide Among Nigerians: What Are The Possible Psychological Remedies?


Suicide could be defined as a deliberate means of ending ones’ life. It is sometimes a
way for people to escape excruciating pains and sufferings. When individuals ends their
own lives, we say that they “died” by suicide. A “suicide attempt means that someone tried to end his or her life, but did not die. The World Health Organization (WHO, 2019) posited that every year close to eight hundred thousand (800,000) people take their own life and there are many more people who attempt suicide.

Every suicide is a tragedy that affects communities and countries of the world, and has a long lasting effects on the people left behind. Suicide occurs throughout the lifespan and was the leading cause of death among 15 – 29 year-old globally in 2016. Suicide does not just occur in high income countries, but it is a global phenomenon in all region of the world. In fact, over 79% of global suicide occurred in low middle-income countries like Nigeria and other African and Asian Counties in 2016. Suicide rates vary greatly, but some general patterns of suicide could also emerge.

Studies have shown that more people commit suicides at New Year’s when things are very difficult than during any other 24-hours period. A “Monday effect” also exist, with higher suicide rates occurring on the first day of the week. This pattern of suicide applies mainly to men, especially those between the ages of 41 and 65 years. It may probably reflects the fact that the traditional “breadwinner” can be especially depressed as they may begin another work week- or another week of looking for an elusive jobs.

The current global Covid-19 pandemic has brought a grave economic recession in
Nigeria. The resultant effect is that so many Nigerians are losing their hard earned jobs
in geometric rate. There is so much hunger in the land, and if adequate care are not
taken by the Federal and State Governments to address this issue of unprecedented
economic quagmire, many vulnerable Nigerian will die of hunger and suicide. Based on the current economic and political predicaments, I hereby wish to predict that by second and third quarters of next year (2021), many Nigerians will be mentally derailed as a result of excruciating economic hardship, and a high number may opt for suicide in the midst of abject penury.
Statistically, men have the questionable honour of being better at suicide than women.

Three times as many men as women complete suicide, but women usually make more attempts. Globally, more men than women die by suicide because they typically use a gun or an equally fatal method. In Nigeria most people that attempted or committed suicide used substances like rat poison, pesticides, drug overdose and raw acid. Some others committed suicide by hanging themselves with ropes on ceiling fans hook, or by jumping into the ocean, river, lake or lagoon. Very few die by firearms in their respective environments. Women most often attempt a drug overdose- a method that leaves greater chance of help arriving before death occurs. Sadly as it may look, women are beginning to use more lethal methods than in the past. The current status of women combined with a high rate of attempts, may place women and men at equal risk of death by suicide.

Age: Age is a risk factor in suicide. Suicide rates gradually rise during adolescence. It

sharply increase during young adulthood (ages 20- 24). From then until age 84, and the rate continues to gradually rise with advancing age. On the average, more than half of all suicides are committed by individuals over 45 years of age. However, there has been a steady increase in the total number of suicides by adolescents and young adults in Nigeria. Part of this increase comes from Secondary and University students where suicide is the leading cause of death.

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Contrary to wider belief, the most dangerous periods for students to commit suicide in Nigeria is during their first year in school, usually in the first six weeks of the term or semester, during their final year in school, but not during their final exams. School is a factor in some suicide cases, but only in the sense that suicidal University or Secondary students were not living up to their own extremely high expectations. Other important factors in student suicide are chronic health problems (real or imagined) and interpersonal difficulties (some suicides are due
to rejected lovers, but others are simply withdrawn and friendless people).
Of most concern to Psychologists is the recent dramatic increase in adolescent

My recent survey shows that that one million (1,000,000) adolescent attempt
suicide through different ways each year in Nigeria, and about ten thousand (10,000) of
these adolescents actually die as a result of suicide. Also disturbing is the fact that an
increasing number of Nigerian youths of recent employ such highly lethal methods as
shooting or injecting themselves with deadly substance to commit suicide.
Recent research have also shown that some professions or vocations such as Medicine,
psychiatry, nursing, engineering, Priesthood, and trading have higher than average suicide rates. Generally, suicide is quite democratic and generous. It is equally a devastating problem of the rich and the poor.

Marital Factor: Another risk factor in suicide is marital status. Marriage, when
successful may be the best natural guard against suicidal impulses or tendencies. The
highest suicide rate are found among divorced men and women, the next highest rates occur among the widowed, lower rates are recorded among the single persons, and
married stable individuals recorded the lowest rates of all.


The monster of suicides usually thrive on three cardinal emotions such as; despair, guilt and anger. In other words, the person wants to die (escape), wants to be killed
(punished), and wants to hurt (or punish) others. Usually such feelings are preceded by a history of interpersonal troubles within the family, in-laws, or a lover or spouse.
Sometimes it could be as a result of drinking problems, sexual adjustment problems, or
job loss. It is a fact that erectile dysfunction, sterility or impotency in a man can
predispose him to commit suicide if appropriate psychological succor are not rendered to such individual. Suicide is usually visible, when there is a breakdown in communication with others that causes the person to feel isolated and misunderstood.

Suicide occurs when self-image becomes negative. The person feels worthless and
helpless and wants to die. Severe feelings of hopelessness are a warning or vital signs
that the risk of suicide is very imminent. A long history of such conditions is not always
necessary to produce a wish to die. People who attempt suicide are not necessarily
“mentally ill” Any one may temporarily reach a state of depression severe enough to
attempt suicide. Most fatal for the average person are times of divorce, separation,
failure or business failure, and time of bereavement. Each of these can create an


intolerable situation and can motivate an intense or intolerable desire for escape
through suicide.

The current causes of increase in adolescents’ suicide remain unclear to researchers, but with adults there is often a backdrop of problems with drugs, depression, and frustration in school, intolerance from peers, family problems, divorced parents, or the
breakup of romance or relationship. It may be wise to say that most adolescents who
attempt suicide are socially isolated and poor at solving problems in their personal
relationships. Some experts in the Science of Psychology suggest that many cases of
adolescent suicide result from unrealistic expectation. For example, parents may create feelings of despair by pressuring their children to meet impossible high standard. Even without parental pressure, teenagers may expect the impossible of themselves in schools, sports, relationship, or progress towards a future career. Extremely, high expectation and an unusual degree of sensitivity to hurt and disappointment can bring self-esteem to the lowest ebb over even the smallest failure. The outcome of suicide ideation is the feelings of helplessness, hopelessness, and a desire to escape. A person who threatens suicide should be taken seriously- even one who seems to be “crying wolf”. A potential suicidal person may say nothing more than, “I feel sometimes like I’d be better off dead.” Warning may also come indirectly. If a friend gives a favourite ring and says, “Here, I won’t be needing this anymore,” or comments, “I guess I won’t get my
car fixed – it doesn’t matter anyway,” it may call for a plea to help.

The decision to attempt or commit suicide usually comes when a person is alone,
depressed, and unable to view matters objectively. Vantage individuals should intervene if someone in their neighborhood seems to be threatening suicide. Most people, therefore, are relived when someone comes to their aid. We should remember that suicide is almost a cry for help and that you can help when the need arises. As suicide expert Edwin Shneidman (1987) posited that, “suicidal behaviour is often a form of communication, a cry for help born out of pain, with clues and messages of suffering and anguish and pleas for response.


  1. Escape: Every one most of the time feels like running away from an upsetting or
    unpleasant situation. Running away from home, quitting school, abandoning a
    marriage- these are departures. Suicide, of course, is the ultimate escape. It
    helps when suicidal persons sees that the natural wish for escape doesn’t have
    to be expressed by ending it all.
  2. Unbearable psychological pain: Emotional pain is what the suicidal person is seeking to escape. A goal of anyone hoping to prevent suicide should be to reduce pain in any way possible. Ask the person “where does it hurt?”
  3. Frustrated Psychological needs: Often, suicide can be prevented if a distraught
    person’s frustrated needs can be identified and eased. Is the person extremely frustrated in his or her search for love, achievement, trust, security, or friendship?
  4. Constriction of options: The suicidal person feels helpless and decides that
    death is the only solution. The person has narrowed all his or her options solely
    to death. The rescuer’s goal, then, is to help broaden the suicidal person’s
    perspective. Even when all choices are unpleasant, suicidal person can usually be

made to see that their least unpleasant option is better than death. The most
important task may be is to establish rapport with the person. You should offer
support, acceptance, and legitimate caring.
We should bear in mind that a suicidal persons feels misunderstood. You should
therefore try to accept and understand the feelings the suicidal person is
expressing. Acceptance should also extend to idea of suicide itself. It is
completely acceptable to ask, “Are you thinking of suicide? Establishing
Communication with suicidal person may be enough to carry them through a
difficult time. We should try as much as possible to distract the person from
suicidal thoughts by taking him or her out for a lunch or share a ride, and the like.
Let the person know you expect her or him to be there. Such commitments, even
though small, can be enough to tip the scales when the person is alone and
thinking about suicide.

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Don’t end your efforts too soon. One of the most dangerous times for suicide is
when a person suddenly seems to get better after severe depression. Many
experts agree that that this often means that the person has finally made the
decision to end it all. The improvement in mood is deceptive because it comes
from an anticipation that suffering is about to end.


The greatest mistake in dealing with a suicidal threat is to assume that the
person making such a threat does not mean what he or she says. You may save
his or her life by taking the threat seriously and using reasonable precautions.
Thoughts, threats, and attempts at suicide occur in some forms of severe
psychological disorders, particularly in cases characterized by depression, and
also in cases in which the individual becomes seriously discouraged or thwarted.
The following remedies/ crisis interventions are very necessary in reducing the
rate of suicide in our society;

  1. Every State in Nigeria should establish centres for suicide prevention, and
    provide mental health intervention team that comprised of Psychologists,
    Psychiatrists, Occupational Health therapists, and Social workers. The
    Psychologists trained to handle suicide situations should also be trained to
    talk with suicidal persons over the phone. We should give individuals who
    seems to be at the risk of suicide the phone number of one of the experts
    working in these centres. Urge the person to call him or her or the other
    numbers if he or she becomes frightened or impulsive. Or better yet, help the
    person make an appointment to receive psychological treatment from a
  2. Arrange for continuous, twenty-four-hour supervision of the individual for as
    long as necessary, even up to two years in some cases.
  3. Remove all objects or instruments from the surroundings which might be
    used in carrying out the threat.
  4. Arrange for professional help in seeking to find the basic cause of the
    depression and to devise ways for correcting this basic cause.
  5. We should call the Law Enforcement Agencies, such as the Nigerian police,

the Nigerian Civil Defence Corps or Suicide/ Crisis Intervention Centres to
intervene in the case of any suicide attempts by individuals in our

the Nigerian Civil Defence Corps or Suicide/ Crisis Intervention Centres to
intervene in the case of any suicide attempts by individuals in our

  1. For any signs and traces of suicide, do not hesitate to consult a Clinical
    Psychologist at the Nedal Psychological Clinic, Awka Anambra State Nigeria.
    Abamara, Nnaemeka C. Ph.D., MNPA, MNACP, MNSPR
    Consultant Clinical Psychologist.

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