Reasons Why Suicide is Increasing in Northern Nigeria

Updated: Jan 26, 2022
By Aisha

Suicide is the intentional killing of oneself. In Nigeria, the suicide rates are about 17.3 per 100,000 people. This might seem like a small number until we consider that it is not just a number but people with lives, futures, and families. This number is distributed throughout all the states in Nigeria. Even in Northern Nigeria where it is taboo to commit suicide, it is still rampant. It leads one to wonder what exactly would cause a person to take their own life. The reasons vary from person to person but some of them are:

Reasons for Increase in Suicidal Rate in Northern Nigeria

1. Grief

After the death of a family member, living may become difficult. Death may lead to sadness, depression, etc. all of which could make a person choose “the easy way out” and give up on life itself. This is surely one of the reasons why suicide in Northern Nigeria is on the rise.

2. Financial Problems

It is no news that the standard of living in Nigeria is low. A lot of families struggle to put food on the table even once a day. In Northern Nigeria especially, where the men are the head of large families and the women do not work, it is even harder to feed. If a man loses his job in this situation, needless to say, his frustration will know no bounds. He is likely to end it all as the responsibility may be too much for him. His death could lead to the deaths of other members of his family as they are left destitute.

3. Rejection

This is common amongst teenagers. Although liking someone is not a crime and is a natural phenomenon, some individuals take it as far as to put their lives in another person’s hands. When this other person then rejects their affection, they are left sad and unable to function and might think the next best thing is to kill themselves.

4. Unemployment

This is another big problem in Nigeria and a cause of suicide in Northern Nigeria. The country is not stable enough to provide jobs for everybody yet our educational systems are such that we are not taught to be entrepreneurs. This leads people to look for jobs that are not available and the frustration may lead to suicide. In Northern Nigeria, there is also the problem of under qualification. Sometimes, there are jobs available but the people who apply for them are not qualified enough.

This is especially true in the north due to the fact that they do not generally value western education like most other regions.  This inability to secure a job is detrimental to the mental health of the job seeker.

5. Abuse

There are several types of abuse and abuse has been seen to be a leading cause of suicide:

a. Sexual Abuse

When a person is raped, especially in the north, they tend to keep quiet about it. This is usually because when they do speak up, they are blamed for the abuse, and then their image is ruined and they can no longer walk confidently among the crowd. When a person is abused and they keep quiet about it, they die slowly inside until they can no longer go on. And when they talk about it, they are ridiculed so much that their only options seem to be either to relocate or to commit suicide.

b. Domestic Abuse

In Northern Nigeria, there are many cases of domestic abuse, reported and not reported. Domestic abuse can be about a person beating their significant other. Men are usually reported to have beaten their wives or maltreated them in one way or another. As a woman in Northern Nigeria, it is seen as a shame to report your husband or even be divorced. This leads women to stay in a depressing marriage and could eventually cost them their lives.

Read: Divorced Women in Arewa Are Really Suffering, And We Can Do Something About it

c. Emotional Abuse

Words have the potential for great good as well as a great evil. In Nigeria as a whole, people are fond of insulting each other as a joke and putting down another person’s self-esteem. It might be funny for a while, but some people may be emotionally fragile and after getting so many harsh words, they deem themselves unworthy and try to end their own life.

d. Child Abuse

Giving a child out as a maid, beating a child mercilessly, starving them, forcing them to beg, not giving them an education, etc. are all a part of child abuse. Children should be nurtured with care so their self-esteem does not dip. A child with low esteem is bound to want to kill himself. A child who sees his mate going to school while he is stuck begging will feel unworthy and sad.

Furthermore, children (both male and female) who are forced into early marriages without even knowing what it entails could end up very sad and want to end it. We should take care to not abuse our children and keep their futures safe. Else, suicide might start to look like heaven to them.

6. Health Issues

In addition, another cause of suicide in Northern Nigeria is the health status of victims. Some people who have health complications choose to kill themselves either because they do not have the financial capacity to handle the disease and do not want to bother their families, or that the disease could ultimately lead to death anyway. They choose to do what they believe is best and commit suicide. Due to this, health practitioners often advise people with severe health conditions to see psychologists. But as we all know, this is Nigeria.

There are several other factors that could cause a person to want to commit suicide. They include bullying and discrimination, cultural/religious pressure, etc. But with every problem, comes solutions. The weight of reducing the load on suicidal persons rests on the shoulders of individuals, the community, and the government. How?

How Suicidal Rates Can Be Reduced in Northern Nigeria

1. What Individuals Could Do

People should try to be more tolerant of others. We should all remember that every person in this world has their own struggles and as such, we should be kinder. I was once asked in a Buzzfeed quiz about what attribute would make the world a better place. The options were; Discipline, Self-Love, Independence, and Kindness. While all of these are good, in the wise words of Jackie Chan, sometimes it only takes one act of kindness and caring to change a person’s life.

We should also try to take note of the people around us. That lady upstairs who always gave you salt when you ran out, ask about how she’s doing you might be surprised about the pain she’s in despite her smile. That man who always greets you on his way to work but suddenly stops and just walks around with a long face, have a chat with him. It might save his life. These simple acts can lead a person from intentionally walking the plank.

2. How Society Can Help

Society in general also has a role to play in the fight against suicide. As mentioned above bullying and discrimination is one of the major causes of suicide. Let’s take the instance of 26-year-old Geraldine whose story was narrated to me by a friend of mine. Geraldine was a hairdresser at a famous salon. She was strong, happy, independent, and kind and had many friends. One day, people realized she started to grow thin and began to wonder. One thing led to another and it was discovered that she had been living with HIV for a while. She had run out of money so could not feed herself properly which caused people to notice it.

Society had two options here. One, be sorry for not noticing the pain she had been going through and try to see how to help her. Second, ignore and stigmatize her due to her illness. In the society we live in today, the second option prevailed and she was fired. She had no friends and no source of income. Due to this, her frustration grew and she tried to commit suicide. Although she was saved, her life can never be the same again.

Let us imagine a scenario where the second option was chosen. Geraldine would have been saved, she would still have her friends and the world would still have a bright young woman. The impact of societal care on suicide prevention cannot be over-emphasized.

3. What Role the Government Can Play

Although the government tries, there is still a lot it can do. For instance, set up more emergency helplines for suicide attempters, set up free (and effective) counselling sessions, organise rallies and orientation programmes to educate people on the dangers of suicide, etc. In Nigeria, there is a law that says an attempt of suicide is liable to a year of imprisonment. I find this ridiculous. Instead, mental health organizations should be set up for them so as to revive their will.

The government definitely has a huge role to play in reducing suicide in Northern Nigeria.

4. How Non-Governmental Organizations Can Help

There are other people that help in the fight against this social vice. These people have come together to create NGOs that help with suicide prevention. The government has also set up certain helplines to combat the situation. A lot of helplines for different suicidal scenarios and other emergencies can be found at www.opencounsseling.com and www.aasra.info. If you or anyone around you needs help, please click any of the links above.

Do NOT suffer in silence. Anyone considering suicide should remember “You matter. What you do matters. Who you are matters” and click on the link and give it another shot.

Conclusion

The above-mentioned are reasons why the suicide rate is increasing in Northern Nigeria and what role individuals, government, the society and non-governmental organizations have to play in curbing it. Remember, suicide is a blot on our society and it is our responsibility to clean it.  Out of the over 700,000 people that die if we all save one, I dare say that number can be cut down significantly.

If you have further questions, let’s hear them in the comments and I would love to get your opinion on the above Buzzfeed question.

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