Following the increasing rate of suicide in the country and growing number of people falling into depression, a clinical psychologist expert, Rev. Msgr. Anthony Eze has called for a decisive action from stakeholders in a bid to curtail the alarming growth of mental health issues in the country.
Msgr. Eze who is also a Spiritual Director at Bigard Memorial Seminary, Enugu, while speaking to The Choice Flame Newspaper on a special documentary on the rise of Mental Health Issues in Nigeria and suicide as the resultant effect, blamed it on the deplorable conditions in our society which he said have adversely affected people’s health. He bemoaned the amount of violence, poverty and suffering Nigerians face on daily basis. He however condemned the increasing suicide rate in the country and advised people to look out for other alternatives in seeking solution to their challenges instead of resorting to suicide.
According to him; “after the civil war many came back broken, especially people who actively fought in that war but there were no services to help them in any way. There is need to create more awareness about mental health and how to get help when someone has mental health issues.
“It’s very sad when people feel so hopeless. For them, the only way out is to end it all. Whatever problem people have, when they decide to face their problem, somehow they can succeed either in solving the problem or adjusting to whatever the problem is and managing it. Anybody who kills himself ends the opportunity he has to solve whatever problem is troubling him and opportunity to contribute to the welfare of his family and his personal welfare as well as the society.”
Msgr. Anthony speaking further said there are three major reasons why suicide is on the increase in our society. He mentioned the loss of cultural values, loss of family love as well as mental illness as the three major reasons why people decide to take their lives.
Continuing, Msgr. Eze who heaped blames on the loss of cultural values and said; “In Igbo society, suicide is a taboo. Someone who kills himself is not even buried by his relatives and you know here we celebrate death. Because the society has changed and values changed, people no longer have that sense of horror for killing themselves.”
On family, he said; “It’s an indication that families are no longer cohesive. The family support that makes people feel loved and cherished is lacking. That sense of belonging to a family is being lost”, he bemoaned.
On other risk factors, Msgr. Anthony said; “there are also risk factors for suicide. Prominent for it is mental illness. Different types of mental illness, like depression and bipolar disorder( used to be called manic depression) and even sometimes, of personality disorder particularly borderline are all major factors that contribute to suicide . People who suffer from borderline illnesses, borderline personality disorder are usually very unstable, like mercury, up and down. They may be excited at the moment and the next moment they are sad and angry. They will love you this minute and next minute they hate you with passion. People with that kind of disorder are prone to self-injury, to killing themselves.
Another factor is family history of suicide or someone been exposed to suicide. Social media is now exposing so many people to suicide. If you go through the pages of our dailies, you notice that sexual abuse has become so common. Loss of loved ones who may be the only social support the person has and for whatever reason loses him or her, he or she also loses hope.
“The fact of the matter is that people who kill themselves are in such pain that they begin to believe that the only solution is to end it all. They also forget that there’s always another way out in any challenge one find himself or herself in.”
Msgr. Anthony further described suicide as a problem because according to him, the person doesn’t look at the broader aspect of his or her problem; they have a myopic view of issues. He opined that, if the person can step aside and observe the situation instead of being totally involved both in mind and soul, then maybe they can have a rethink.
Stressing on other risk factors of suicide, he mentioned poor coping skills as well as someone who has difficulty dealing with his or her sexual orientation as other risks. Also, people with chronic illnesses as well as children from divorced homes are at the risk of falling into depression with the ability to start contemplating suicide as the only way out.
Msgr. Eze regretted the lack of resources needed in the country to effectively handle mental health challenges and inadequate attention it always receives. He said; “The unfortunate thing is that we don’t have resources to help people. We don’t even often notice that someone is in such pain and difficulty. Or that the person is even thinking about killing himself. The important factor to point out is that mental illness is one of the biggest risk factors, especially depression. It makes people so sad, so guilty, pathological guilt; they can blame themselves for what someone else does.
“It can happen to anybody from any class. The climax in terms of development of mental illness is in teenage years. In fact, it is said that three out of all four people who get mental illness get it before the age of 24. That is why the vast majority of those who kill themselves are young people, because they may have the mental illness and nobody even knows what they are struggling with.
“So that is why it becomes very important for all those who interact with young people like teachers, parents, coaches, Priests, Pastors to be observant. Notice when the behavior of a child, young person is changing and begin to ask questions. Usually, people who kill themselves give some signs. So, there are warning signs that if observed, may help get assistance for them before they do any harm to themselves.
“For instance, signs like when someone begin to be preoccupied with death or the person has very intense sadness or hopelessness or the person no longer care about the activities he used to enjoy before. Withdrawal from friends, family and other social activities and substance abuse are other signs to watch out for.
Other signs include; sleep disturbances (staying awake all the time) or the other way round the person sleeps too much. Similarly, when people start giving away their possessions including their highly treasured ones, such persons should be monitored closely. There are other risky behaviors which are seen mostly among privileged young people who have access to cars. They drive like crazy and care less about possible consequences.
Msgr. Anthony further called on Government to rise to the occasion and provide facilities to help tackle mental health issues in the country. He decried the situation where the country lacks facilities where people with special mental health issue are administered care. He also advised Priests and Pastors to stop exploiting people with mental health issues and stop driving people into depression through making promises of spiritual intervention they cannot fulfill. He described it as an avoidable arrogance and an uncanny way of exploiting people’s challenge for selfish interest. He noted that God is not an author of confusion and advised that people should stop playing God in the name of providing divine intervention.