The Connection Between Harsh Economic Realities and the Surge in Depression and Mental Health Challenges

Experts have highlighted the resurgence of police presence on Lagos bridges, particularly the Third Mainland Bridge, a known hotspot for suicide attempts. Law enforcement officers are being stationed there to intervene and prevent individuals with suicidal intentions from taking drastic actions.

A report from The PUNCH has revealed that in the year 2022 alone, a distressing total of 79 individuals tragically took their own lives in Nigeria. Of this number, 70 were male, while 9 were female.

It’s important to note that these figures might not even account for unreported cases of suicide that have not reached the attention of journalists.

A deeper analysis of the data illustrates that Lagos recorded the highest number of suicides with 12 cases, followed by Oyo with 10 cases. Other states such as Kano, Anambra, Edo, Delta, Ogun, and Rivers also reported cases ranging from three to four suicides each.

Dr. Bolanle Ogungbamila, a distinguished Professor of Psychology at the Department of Psychology, Adekunle Ajasin University, Ogun State, has attributed the escalating number of suicides to the prevailing dire economic conditions. He pointed out that the country’s economic challenges have significantly diminished the familial support systems as many individuals lack the financial resources to provide for themselves adequately.

According to Ogungbamila, the cumulative effect of these economic hardships often leads individuals to view themselves as the cause of their problems, fueling feelings of self-guilt, depression, and ultimately, suicidal tendencies.

Aside from economic factors, he also highlighted the role of severe mental health conditions, particularly schizophrenia, which can manifest as auditory hallucinations driving individuals toward self-destructive behavior.

Bipolar disorder, another serious mental health condition, can also contribute to suicidal thoughts and actions, especially during depressive episodes.

One striking case that gained attention was the attempted suicide of a Lagos socialite, Mrs. Farida Sobowale, on the Third Mainland Bridge. This incident, along with other recent cases, has prompted experts to stress the importance of addressing the underlying triggers for suicide in Nigeria.

Mental health professionals have called for increased awareness and education to eliminate stigma around seeking help for emotional struggles. They advocate for an environment where psychological and psychiatric treatment is seen as crucial as seeking medical care for physical ailments.

Efforts are also needed to encourage open conversations about mental health and provide accessible support for those who might be at risk.

Dr. Odete Williams, a psychiatrist at the Federal Neuro-Psychiatric Hospital in Lagos, emphasized the link between depression and suicide, underscoring the importance of professional mental health care.

Substance abuse was identified as another potential trigger for the surge in suicides. Dr. Nduka Emeka, a clinical psychologist, advised individuals facing feelings of hopelessness and frustration to seek assistance from mental health specialists.

Subtle signs of suicidal tendencies were outlined by the US National Institute of Mental Health, including changes in behavior, expressing a desire to die, extreme mood shifts, withdrawal from social interactions, and increased substance use.

The World Health Organization (WHO) has set a target to reduce the global suicide rate by one-third by 2030. In line with this goal, WHO launched the ‘Live Life’ intervention, focusing on collaboration, awareness, capacity-building, financing, and monitoring to prevent suicides.

It’s important to note that the Nigerian constitution criminalizes suicide, and those caught attempting suicide can face imprisonment, as stipulated in Section 327 of the Criminal Code Act.

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