A Professor of Psychiatry, Oye Gureje, has said that stigmatisation and criminalisation of suicide has made it difficult to get accurate data and figure on suicide rate in the country.
Gureje, of the College of Medicine, University of Ibadan, spoke during the week in Ibadan against the backdrop of the 2019 World Suicide Prevention Day.
The theme for this year’s “Working Together to Prevent Suicide” seeks to highlight the most essential ingredients for effective global suicide prevention.
The professor said lack of accurate data and compulsory death registration negatively affect suicide prevention strategies.
Gureje said: “Firstly, suicide is a highly stigmatised problem in the country and so we do not really know how many people are killing themselves.
“What we do know are the ones that get reported in the media and I can tell you this is just a tip of the iceberg because most people who have relatives who have killed themselves will hide such incidents.
“Also, there is no compulsory registration of death in Nigeria. So people can die without anybody knowing what might have killed them.
“To that extent, there may be many more people killing themselves which we may not know,” he said.
The psychiatrist said that to help more people to come forward on suicide cases, the Federal Government should decriminalise attempted suicide and review the mental health law.
“The law currently guiding mental health practice is very archaic and that same law also criminalises attempted suicide, punishable by one year imprisonment.
“This is a shame because attempted suicide is a sign of mental illness and mental illness is just like any other medical condition which can be treated,” he said.
He stated that suicidal thoughts and attempts are results of depression, feeling of hopelessness, intense emotional pain, psychosis and post-traumatic stress disorder.
“The primary healthcare system is the closest to the people and the cheapest in providing accessible care.
“The federal government should initiate policies that will provide basic training to primary healthcare providers in order for them to provide treatment for common mental health problems and help reduce the public health burden of mental illnesses,” he said.
Globally, one person takes his/her own life every 40 seconds, according to the WHO report released on its website on September 9.