Nigerians Are Shy To Visit Psychiatrists — Oyewole
The head, Department of Psychiatry, Ladoke Akintola University of Technology, Dr. Oyewole Adeoye, speaks withTope Omogbolagun on the increase in suicide rate
What is the major cause of suicide in Nigeria?
The cause of the increment in suicide rate is depression and this is as a result of the bad socio-economic condition that people are exposed to. There is no money in circulation any longer. People who have been living in good accommodation can no longer afford it, some have been dislocated, and some cannot even afford their childrens fees again. Some children are about to be withdrawn from school as a result of the change in their parents’ socio-economic status. These are psychological issues. Some people have been unable meet up with their social responsibilities to their extended families. So, when that kind of a thing happens perennially due to socio-economic problems, people begin to feel that their lives are hopeless, worthless and begin to think that life is not worth living again. To me, that is the commonest cause of the increase suicide in the society today.
What are other reasons for suicide?
Depression is caused by a lot of things like bad socio-economic conditions that I have mentioned, other reasons for suicide include marital difficulties which can be traced to socio-economic conditions. Some students are finding it difficult to meet up with academic challenges, some cannot even gain admission into tertiary institutions. If such people see their secondary school mates who are about to complete university education, they will be concerned and this can also be a cause. There is also an increment in the level of mental illness which is not just caused by depression; we have what we call psychotic illness or schizophrenia. This is a kind of sickness where one hears unseen people speaking with him or her in clear consciousness. Some people who commit suicide have this kind of illness. A voice tells them to go and kill themselves. But the commonest cause is depression which is as a result of socio-economic problems. The religious system is becoming too materialistic in orientation. This is a sensitive one but the truth has to be told. You hear of situations where people are asked to attend one convention or the other. At such events, people are asked to make requests through prayer. People’s expectations are high all in the name of faith and by the time they get into the world and see the real thing, some of them can hardly come out of it. This can land such people into one mental illness or the other.
Does illness have anything with mental illness?
Yes. Depression is a mental illness. Suicide imagination and suicide itself are mental illnesses. Suicide is an act and there are so many things that can cause it. But mental illness is major because nobody wants to kill him or herself if he or she is normal. No matter how bad the situation is, you will still want to adapt. You will think of adapting because you are normal but when you begin to think of taking your life, then there is this sense of abnormality.
What causes schizophrenia?
It is a rare case. The only thing that is attached to schizophrenia is the voice that tells the person to go and commit suicide and the person hears the voice and carries out the suicide. It doesn’t have symptoms like depression.
Is it not spiritual?
It is not spiritual, it’s just that it’s a state of where you feel frustrated and nothing is working out for you, you get disappointed and you don’t feel encouraged through a word of advice or even reading the Bible. And if you cannot get out from the situation in a month, then you begin to think of taking your life. Early identification is very important, it is advisable to talk to people about anything that is wrong with you rather than keeping it to yourself. When you think you have the worst story, you will find out that another perspective to the issue will help you find relief.
How does demography affect suicide?
Gender is a very strong factor for suicide. Females are more prone to suicide than men. Women are more emotional while the males are logical. I think it’s because of the hormone present in women.
Also, population size affects suicide. For instance, people who stay in overcrowded space are more prone to mental illness because you need physical and psychological space to be at home with your inner self and to relax.
How true is it that alcohol contributes to suicide especially among men?
Yes it s true. This is because most times when people especially men take alcohol, it’s because they have depressive illness. Rather than visit a psychiatrist, they treat it with alcohol which makes the illness to abound and by the time alcohol can no longer handle it, then they opt for suicide. That is the link.
What are the symptoms that can be seen in someone who is about to commit suicide?
They mostly show signs of depression like undue sadness, loss of interest, hopelessness, worthlessness and all other signs of depressive illness. Nevertheless, suicide is not an illness where the person feels cold, hot or even feverish, it’s just that it has so many causes which have been earlier mentioned. All you can notice is that such people make statements like: “I am tired of life” and that is why it is usually publicised that whenever people make mention of such things, it shouldn’t be treated lightly. It may be a preparation for suicide. Also, there are cases of people who have once attempted to take their lives but were unsuccessful. So, they may try it next time and succeed. So, if you have anyone who has attempted suicide in past times, let the person visit a psychiatrist.
Is there anyway one can help a person who is about to commit suicide?
It’s very difficult to know a person who is about to commit suicide because a person who is about to do that will not tell people. They can take shaving powder and anything that can kill them easily. However, some people who take such things are not attempting to commit suicide, they are only seeking attention. Clinically, we differentiate between attempting suicide and deliberate self-harm. This is common among women who are seeking attention. I have had situations of women who want to get their husbands’ attention by taking shaving powder or hanging with a rope that is not strong enough.
What we can do is to pick those who have serious social issues and monitor them very well and make sure they get over it as soon as possible.
Are there any medical treatments that can prevent suicide?
There are various medical treatments. These includes: Anti-depressor, psychotherapy, positive thinking, counselling, among others.
To what extent are Nigerians embracing the services of psychiatrists?
The response is very low though, I don’t have the statistics. It is as poor as 98 per cent. People are usually shy to visit a psychiatrist. And most of these people prefer to visit pastors and traditional doctors. It is when things go out of hand that they now employ the services of a psychiatrist. And this is part of the reason why suicide rates keep increasing.
How have these issues been tackled?
We have been trying to create awareness through the media and personal orientation. We have been passing the information through various churches and mosques.
What roles should governments play in curbing suicide rate in the country?
They should provide a social-welfare scheme like we have in developed countries. Government has set up federal psychiatric hospitals across the federation, passed the Mental Health Bill and they have established community mental health services as well. All these are good initiatives.