The World Health Orgainsation has designated September 10 as World Suicide Prevention Day.Globally, it is estimated that 800,000 people commit suicide every year; that means 1 person takes their life every 40 seconds somewhere in the world and many more attempt suicide! When a suicidal death occurs, it has a devastating and far-reaching effect on families,friends and communities and this continues for a long time after the person dear to them has taken their own life.
Thinking about suicide and its victims, sometimes, I wonder why we always feel that suicide is sudden and unexpected when in most cases, the signs had been there for all to see. When people die by suicide we express shock and seek reasons for such actions.
Such was the case of Mama Are, a 62-year old retired widow with six well-educated and caring children. Tenyears ago, she had been rushed to the emergency room after taking two cups of a mix of weed-killer and kerosene. Her children wondered why she carried out the act, other relatives wondered same, as did her neighbours, the emergency room staff and of course,the spectators. We all wondered about this ominous act.The question on our lips was “Why would Mama Are go to such extreme? Why? Why?”
Like regular Nigerian perplexed and confused “wonderers”, we had to ascertain the reason for the event and so we probed for more information.
Apparently, Mama had been complaining of not been happy and not enjoying life for about eight monthsprior the incident; this was surprising because things had been going on well with her and her family. She often told her children she felt like dying and had commented that she would welcome death numerous times; however, the response of her family was usually something like……."Heeee! Haaaa! How can you wish a moving trailer should hit you? Why would you wish to sleep and not wake up? Mummy you need deliverance, plus serious fasting and prayers."
Mama did all these and more, but the bad thoughts did not stop. Her children blamed her for saying such terrible things, but the thoughts didn't stop. They forbade her from speaking them out; even thinking them. They bought her nice things, renovated her house, spent more time with her and brought her to live with them so as to keep her company and make her happy; they hoped all these would put an end to such thought. Alas! The thoughts did not abate. She continued to live in her drowning darkness and blithering fears till she could not bear it no more.
On a beautiful Sunday morning, when everyone thought she had gone to church, Mama Are sneaked back home and drank the mix she had hidden in the house for two months. She was found semiconscious after service ended three hours later; she was rushed to the emergency room where several attempts were made to resuscitate her, but she died within nine hours of hospital admission. What a loss! What a tragedy!
This was an unfortunate end to the life of a woman who had slaved all her adult life to train her children. Now she was gone when life was about to become sweet; she did not live to reap the reward of her hard labours! She was brought to the hospital only at the ZERO hour.
There was so much pain in the air that day, accompanied by shame, grief and blame amongst her relatives.
The VICTIM died leaving Victims.
Mama Are, the victim, who suffered endlessly for eightmonths; then the victims, particularly her six well-educated, loving, kind but ignorant children- they had remained mainly ignorant of their mother’s fragile mental health and thought it was something she could snap out of. Mama Are died unexpectedly because the expected was not done.
Truly, death is inevitable; but death by Suicide is preventable. Mental Illness is real; it is the leading cause of suicide worldwide. It's near us and closeenough. Scrap the Ignorance! Stop the stigma! Mental Illness is treatable and help is available for you and your loved ones if such experience occurs.
We have mental health professionals in Nigeria and you could walk into any government hospital and ask to see a mental health professional; if they are not available at that facility, ask for a referral to a place where they are! better still, you could call any of the SURPIN hotlines and we would link you up with a mental health professional closest to you. Every single life lost to suicide is one too many. The way forward is to act together, and the time to act is now.
Take THE RIGHT STEP today.
Save a life!
Dr Folake Ogundele
Mental Health Consultant
World Health Organization (2014). Preventing Suicide: A global imperative. Assessed on the 9th of September, 2020 from https://apps.who.int/iris/bitstream/handle/10665/131056/9789241564878_eng.pdf;jsessionid=179A209E254B4B05B9475F3FFB6496B5?sequence=8