WHO’s disturbing statistics on suicide

The recent statistics of people engaging in self-murder released by the World Health Organisation (WHO) should be a cause for worry to the living.

According to the global body, close to 700,000 people commit suicide annually induced by various conditions ranging from depression, frustration, and poverty to despair. About 77 per cent of the cases occur in low and middle income countries.

WHO’s Country Representative in Nigeria, Dr. Walter Kazadi Mulombo, made the revelation in a message to commemorate this year’s World Suicide Prevention Day.

The theme for this year’s commemoration is: “Creating Hope Through Action.” The Day serves as a reminder that there is an alternative to suicide and also aspires to inspire confidence and light in everyone. It also aims to empower individuals to be in control of their lives.

Mulombo said that creating hope through action highlighted the importance of setting suicide prevention as a priority public agenda by countries, particularly where access to mental health services and availability of evidence-based intervention are already low, noting that it was aimed at raising the much needed awareness that suicide is preventable.

He further stated that suicide was the leading cause of death among 15 to 29-year-olds, noting that every suicide case is a tragedy that affected families, communities and the entire country and it had long lasting effects on the people left behind.

In 2013, the World Health Assembly adopted the Mental Health Action Plan (2013-2020) and identified suicide prevention as an important priority for achieving the global target of reducing the rate by 10 per cent by 2020.

Mulombo praised Nigeria for showing commitment towards achieving the target by first establishing the new National Mental Health Programme in the Federal Ministry of Health to provide strategic leadership on mental health activities and also work closely with the National Assembly to develop a new mental health bill which aligns with international standards.

He said WHO desired everyone to raise awareness to reduce the stigma around suicide and encourage well-informed action, noting “We can all play a role in supporting those experiencing a suicide crisis or those bereaved by suicide as a member of society.”

Besides depression and despair, addiction to hard drugs is a major factor driving many victims to the embrace of suicide. It is also a forerunner to suicide particularly in Nigeria. Once the effects of the hard drugs weigh down the victims, they lose their sense of reasoning, consequently embracing self-murder as a get-away from a harsh world.

A recent survey revealed that Nigeria is home to about 60m mentally challenged people with many inching their way to the suicide den. The persistent economic hardship has not helped matters, with several others being pushed into the suicide pack on regular basis. Aside from endemic corruption which is an invidious crime that impoverishes the masses, another major factor responsible for this state of affairs is bad governance which has been the hallmark of successive administrations.

There have also been instances lately where workers experiencing salary delays and students failing their examinations or unable to pay school fees turn to suicide as a permanent solution to their problems.

The journey to suicide does not begin suddenly. Suicide victims are known to exhibit strange traits such as withdrawing to themselves, throwing tantrums and being on edge most of the time, among others. When such change of behaviour surfaces, relatives should probe for the cause and endeavour to engage them back with positive conversations aimed at encouraging them to see hope and the good side of life.

Those who need rehabilitation should be encouraged to get treatment. Government at all levels has a lot to do to reverse the state of affairs. The security challenges bedeviling the country do not also help matters. A situation where people cannot pursue their normal businesses, earn income and meet their basic needs coupled with runaway inflation and high cost of living can drive anyone to turn to suicide as a solution.

Good governance is a bulwark against suicide tendencies. Failure to do this makes the government not only a conspirator but also a bearer of the watering can that nourishes the suicide seed.

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