Every year since 2003, September 10 is set aside as World Suicide Prevention Day. The purpose of this day is to create awareness about suicide, how to recognize the warning signs, and how you can be of help. This year, the theme is “Creating Hope Through Action.” The theme calls us to identify warning signs and take actions towards suicide prevention.
WHO reports that about 703,000 people commit suicide yearly. This number excludes the even larger number of people who attempt suicide yearly. Although people of many ages commit suicide, it is very common among teenagers and young adults. The four leading causes of death among people aged 15 – 29 are road injuries, tuberculosis, interpersonal violence, and suicides.
4 Facts About Suicides in Nigeria
- In Nigeria, it is a crime to commit suicide under Section 327 of the Criminal Code Act. A person who attempts suicide and survives can be sentenced to a year in prison.
- Between January and June 2019, 42 Nigerians committed suicide. 11 of them were students facing difficulties in school.
- The Suicide Research and Prevention Initiative (SURPIN) conducted a study at LUTH. The study revealed that out of the 66 suicides recorded in 2018, about 62% committed suicide by consuming Sniper.
- Due to the high rate of suicide in Nigeria, the Nigerian Government placed restrictions on the sale and purchase of Sniper. NAFDAC requested that the product no longer be sold in supermarkets and open markets.
While people across different ages and factors could commit suicide, studies have shown that certain groups are more vulnerable than others. Below are some people who are “at risk” of committing suicide.
- People who have recently experienced a major life trauma. This includes the death of a loved one, divorce/breakup, getting diagnosed of a serious disease, or getting fired/laid off from work.
- People who are experiencing serious financial difficulties.
- People who have a mental illness.
- People with terminal or chronic illnesses.
- People who experienced trauma in the past such as rape, abuse, or childhood trauma.
- People who have witnessed or have been exposed to another person committing suicide.
- People who abuse substances.
- People who are being bullied.
- People who have access to lethal weapons or means of committing suicide such as poison or medication.
- People with past suicide attempts.
To curb suicide in Nigeria and beyond, it is important to know what warning signs to watch out for. If someone is already at risk (mentioned above), then the following signs should be taken very seriously. Below are 7 warning signs of suicidal behavior you should watch out for.
- Behavioral Signs:
One of the biggest warning signs to watch out for is a change in behavior. When a person is contemplating suicide, he/she might display some changes in their behaviors, attitudes, or personalities. These changes include socially isolating themselves from everyone, significant weight changes, losing interest in activities they once enjoyed, or having sudden outbursts of rage. The person could also appear very different as they begin to pay less attention to their personal appearances.
- Mood Changes:
Extreme mood swings, long-lasting sadness, fatigue, anxiety, or being in a state of total despair is a warning sign to look out for. These are usually signs of depression and depression is one of leading causes of suicide. Sudden calmness after being depressed for a long time could also be a sign that a person has decided to end their lives.
- Talking About Suicide:
This is one of the obvious signs you should not miss. If a person talks about wanting to kill themselves or feeling like they have no reason to live, it could be a sign that the person wants to commit suicide. Sometimes, it may not be an outright speech, it could be someone writing or drawing images that depict suicide. Not everyone who is contemplating suicide will say they are and not everyone who says they are will go through with it. Nonetheless, it is important to take every talk about suicide seriously and provide the necessary help.
- Change in Sleep Pattern:
Sometimes, a person who is considering suicide might start sleeping too much or too little. While this could just be an indication of someone being very tired or someone not feeling sleepy, it could be a sign of something serious. A person who is oversleeping might be doing so because they consider it a means of escape from the real world. Studies show that insomnia and oversleeping have links to depression, which could lead to suicide.
- Dangerous or Self-Harm Behaviors:
Engaging in dangerous or harmful activities could be an indication that a person is no longer interested in their life. These behaviors include; increased use of drugs or alcohol consumption, driving recklessly, or engaging in un-safe sex.
- Giving Away Valuable Items:
If someone suddenly starts giving away their prized possessions or their valuable items, it might be a sign that they don’t have intentions to keep on living. While this may just be a person trying to declutter, it can also be a warning sign especially if the person falls into the category of people at risk of committing suicide.
- Purchasing Lethal Means:
Purchasing items such as guns or poisonous substances is one of the warning signs to look out for. This is necessary especially if said items were purchased in secret or were kept hidden.
This years theme of World Suicide Prevention focuses on using action to help suicidal people. Therefore, it is important to not just identify warning signs, but to also act on them to bring help to those in need. Some of the actions you can take to help a suicidal person include:
- Talk to Them:
Talking to suicidal people helps in understanding why they want to commit suicide. When talking, it is important not to be judgmental or critical of their thoughts. Rather, you should listen to them empathize with them
- Offer Help and Support:
Offering support goes beyond just telling them you are there for them. After talking to them, you will understand why they want to commit suicide and you will see how you can help. For instance, if they are having serious financial problems, you can be of financial help to them. If they were laid off from work, you can help them find a job. Show your help and support rather than just saying it.
- Connect Them With Professional Help:
Encourage them to seek help from professionals. In Nigeria, you can connect them to the following suicide hotlines; +234 806 6493 or +234 809 210 6493. In Lagos, you can reach out to the suicide prevention hotlines via 0805 8820 777 or 0903 0000 741. You can also reach out to organizations such as Mentally Aware Nigeria Initiative.
Wellness Healthcare also offers guidance and counselling services. You can send us a message via firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also call us on 0700 9355 6377 or +234 1 440 8474.
- Follow Up on Them:
After connecting them with professional help, check up on them regularly to see how they are doing. You can do this by calling, texting, or visiting in person to see how they are doing and if there is more you can do to help.