By Ekaette Udoekong
In my local community, Ndon Ebom in Akwa Ibom State, young men and women were warned about families with a history of suicide. They were warned that it was passed down from one generation to the next. More often that not, suicides were seen as an oyibo thing, but recently suicides and suicidal tendencies are a common occurrence in Nigeria.
A few weeks ago in Lagos, Nigeria, a young man jumped into the lagoon on 3rd Mainland Bridge. Reports stated that he was a doctor and that this was not the first time someone jumped into the lagoon. There have also being reports from other states in Nigeria about attempted suicide and completed suicides. The big question then is, why are the services of the psychologists and psychiatrists not being utilised? Do the victims or their carers not know where or how to get help? Are they ashamed or afraid of being shunned?
There are a lot of stressors these days, ranging from financial failures, unemployment, inability to pay debts, family pressure, loss of a loved one, insecurities and broken relationships, and allof these could be depressive. In my local community, togetherness used to be a major factor in the prevention of these tendencies. Individuals could speak freely about their frustrations and losses and were consoled and counselled. Gossip was not paid any mind. Today however, individualism, culture mix, the high-homed ‘fences’ have gradually replaced communality and this has arguably increased depressive tendencies and substance/alcohol use.
Mental health has to be taken more seriously and it does not have to start with the government but with the mindset of the individual. Awareness needs to be created in our religious meetings, schools, local/town hall meetings. Mental health awareness has to be integrated into welfare regimes at workplaces, employers of labour should take cognisance of the mental health of their employees and come up with activities that aid relaxation.
Civil society organisations have a major role to play in this regard. At Gede SS (South South), managing stress in the work place programme will be one way to raise awareness. This programme will start soon at the zone. Look out for more information.