By Tope Templer Olaiya
12 June 2020.
Against the rise in suicide incidents, and lately sexual violence during the COVID-19 pandemic lockdown, medical experts have called for more awareness on mental illness in the country.
The experts, including Head of Department, Clinical Psychology Department, Federal Neuro-Psychiatric Hospital, Yaba, Dr Tayo Ajirotutu and a U.S.-based child, adolescent and adult psychiatrist, Dr Stella Bassey-Okoronkwo, blared their minds at the inaugural virtual meeting of a non-governmental organisation, Suicide Is No Solution (SINS), with the theme: ‘Talking Suicide 1.0: Causes, Signs and Prevention.’
They urged the government at all levels to ensure schools have at least one psychologist on their staff list, emphasising that the ideal would be the duo of a counsellor and mental health practitioner, adding that religious bodies should also create a mental health unit manned by experts at their religious centres to reduce the rate of suicide in the country.
The panelists also called for the review of the law punishing individuals who attempt suicide, stressing that such individuals needed care and support instead of prosecution.
They posited that there should be adequate training for counsellors in schools and religious organisations to manage the youth, especially those with signs of depression that could lead to suicide.
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Dr. Tayo Ajirotutu, the lead presenter, stated that death by suicide had been on for decades, but had become a serious issue in Nigeria in the past four years and which skyrocketed during the current COVID-19 pandemic.
He noted that individuals with suicidal tendencies and signs must be referred to experts, urging religious organisations and schools to train counsellors on required skills to counsel people with depression.
He said: “Suicide begins with thoughts and behaviour, and it is the second leading cause of death, especially among youths. The signs include someone either talking about killing himself, feeling of hopelessness, loneliness and rejection or having no reason to live and low self-esteem. Financial factors, traumatic reasons, prolonged stress, relationship and education issues, inability to meet targets, issues at work, home or religious organisations are other causes of suicide.”
In her submission, Dr Stella Bassey-Okoronkwo said people struggling with depression, drug abuse, alcohol use disorders and anxiety have a higher tendency of contemplating suicide.
The SINS Project Lead, Mrs Idy Toye-Arulogun, said the meeting was to increase the awareness level and better understanding of suicide amongst Nigerians with a view to reducing to the barest minimum the incidence in the country, while also helping to educate SINS volunteers and people on the causes, signs and prevention of suicide.