COVID-19 Responsible For 48.3% Rise in Suicide Crisis Among Nigerian Youths, Says Research Group

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By; MATTHEW UKACHUNWA, Lagos

Due to the outbreak of Novel Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in the country, Nigeria experienced a rise in suicide crises in year 2020, Suicide Research and Prevention Initiative (SURPIN) has disclosed. 

The country accounted for 41.1 per cent of hotline calls for suicide crises intervention – the highest annual per centage since year 2017, the local research group said.
Dr. Raphael E. Ogbolu, National Coordinator for SURPIN, released the information at the organization’s annual national hybrid – physical and online – conference which took place on Saturday 11th September 2021.
The physical aspect of the conference was held at the Old Great Hall, College of Medicine, Idi-Araba, Lagos.
The theme of the event was: “Youth-connecting and Strengthening Future Mental Well-being.”
The panel discussion focused on the topic: “How to promote childhood resilience.”
Ogbolu said: “Nigeria was affected by the pandemic on multiple fronts, affecting health, education, finances, to mention a few.
“It is not surprising, therefore, that 2020 has accounted for 41.1 per cent of our hotline calls, the highest annual per centage since inception in 2017.
“Of concern is that those aged under 30 years have accounted for 48.3 per cent of the crisis calls. These are the youth.”
The SURPIN chief explained that the rise in the number of suicide-related cases was the reason the group decided to focus the conference subject on young people.
“We cannot afford to continue to lose them to suicide,” he exclaimed. “This informed the theme of the conference, as well as the panel discussion and the secondary school debates.”
Ogbolu pointed out that a World Health Organization’s (WHO) report showed that the suicide rate for Nigeria was 9.5 per 100,000 as at year 2016, with about 800,000 global deaths from suicide.
Though WHO set the target of reducing suicide by 10 per cent by 2020, the SURPIN coordinator said: “The global Coronavirus pandemic has disrupted many global suicide prevention activities and so it remains to be seen if that goal was achieved.”
Ogbolu highlighted how SURPIN has constantly introduced new initiatives in the way it organizes its conferences.
For example, he stated that the previous year, they decided to use the art in the form of short videos in educating people concerning suicide prevention.
According to him, the innovative methods employed brought out the creativity among Nigerians, especially in young people.
“For those who attended, it was an indeed wholesome experience. This year is no exception. We decided to engage secondary schools in a debate competition, because we cannot wait until they are older before we engage them in the discussion about their future mental well-being. You will be watching the final debate entries, which focuses on the Mental Health Bill,” Ogbolu elaborated.
Keynote speaker on the occasion was Professor Taiwo James Obindo, a Professor of Psychiatry at Jos University Teaching Hospital.
He pointed out that 15 out of 100 suicides in the whole world occur in Nigeria.
The don said that lack of national suicide plan in Nigeria is the cause of low statistics on the malady.
“Suicide is generally under-reported due to non-availability of data,” Obindo said.
Professor Taiwo Lateef Sheikh, President of Association of Psychiatrists of Nigeria (APN), on the occasion, expressed dismay that Nigeria’s mental health bill has not yet been passed into an Act by the National Assembly.
He called on stakeholders to press for the legislation of the bill into law, in order to solve problems associated with handling of mental health and suicide-related challenges.
“Everyone is oscillating between mental health and suicide. Any condition that promotes mental well-being is likely to prevent suicide. Service delivery policy is only a policy, not a legislation,” the APN leader said while advocating the passage of Mental Health Bill into law.
He emphasized that law compels the execution of policy, and regretted that Nigeria is still working with the 1963 Lunacy Act.
Sheikh warned that out-of-pocket mental health financing is catastrophic, and advocated that emphasis has to be placed on prevention, promotion and rehabilitation in the treatment of mental health and attempted suicide cases.
Lagos State Commissioner for Health, Professor Akin Abayomi, sent Dr. Tolu Ajomale to represent him.
Ajomale told the audience that Lagos State government has begun the construction of a 500-bed space psychiatric hospital.
He said that the state government has started an effort for the decriminalization of attempted suicide in the state, and that the government is providing access to mental health counselling.
According to him, the state government is recruiting psychologists into its Primary Healthcare Centres (PHC).
“Without mental health we do not have health,” he stressed.
He disclosed that mental health should be integrated into General Hospitals in Lagos State.
Available information showed thatSuicide Research and Prevention Initiative of Nigeria is a suicide prevention strategy in Nigeria. It had its footprints in 34 states of the country as at June 2021.
SURPIN originated from Lagos University Teaching Hospital (LUTH) in year 2017. Its purpose is to prevent suicide through research, crisis intervention, health education, early treatment of depression and drug abuse.
SURPIN uses hotline activities to save the lives of people in crisis through phone counselling and linking them to mental health services nearest to their locations.

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