This topic stems from an experience I had about a week ago while teaching a postgraduate class where the issue of suicide came up for a discussion. There was almost a unanimous view that whoever commits suicide will definitely end up in eternal damnation.
The lesson I took from that discussion is that the supreme being did not create any of us to assume the responsibility of terminating our lives since we did not create ourselves. Even when we do not believe there is a supreme being, we all have an awarenessof a form of supernatural essence within us that is linked to some special purpose to fulfil.
I connect with the sense of value and worth that the message implies, such that irrespective of our experiences,we should all realise that we are not only significant but irreplaceable.
However, embedded in this same belief is the opposite that can make us complacent about people around us that may be on their way to committing suicide. I know that our culture abhors suicide and all religions preach against it in a sense that confers sacred value on human life, however, suicide is never an event but a process. Relatives of those who may have committed suicide can testify to the fact that they were given enough signals to have prevented the suicide if they heeded them.
This is where I challenge our cultural ambassadors and religious leaders not to wait till anyone under their watch commits suicide but to be proactive in its prevention and not wait for the opportunity to pass judgment.
Suicide ranks as the 10th leading cause of death in the United States. Globally, an estimated 700,000 people take their own lives annually.
In certain populations, such as adolescents and young adults, suicide constitutes one of the top three causes of death.
Numerous activities could be associated with suicidal potential that include the following; making a will, getting the family together, unexpected visit of friends and family, purchasing a gun, hose or rope and writing a suicide note.
Some may even visit a primary care physician within three weeks before they commit suicide with some vague complaints. People with greater risk of committing suicide often have a strong preoccupation with death.
They may engage in philosophical or cultural or religious views that justify death in preference to living. Usually, they may suddenly withdraw from usual activities and abandon interesting relationships and activities.
Some may even start withdrawing from family discussions and interactions.
With keen perception, one can notice a great deal of emotional distance from others by people with suicidal tendencies, as well as a lack of humour as they remain in a world of their own. Some have a morbid preoccupation with a past loss or defeat and may classically describe the future as bleak and black. They may voice the notion that others and the world would be better off without them.
These behavioural patterns exist within the context of relationships as parents, spouses, siblings, colleagues and bosses. My concern is that the haze of culture and religion may mask the keenness of insight to detect these signals and appropriately intervene.
Another setting is in the marital relationship where a spouse is locked up in an abusive relationship that religion or culture perpetuates. Even people that experience business failures and political downturn may need to be watched closely.
Most suicidal cases arise from mental illness. especially depression, which is usually masked in Africans. Overwhelming undue sadness, definite plans of killing self or those who think and talk suicide, need clinical assessment.
People with a strong family history of suicide, especially when the anniversary of a family member’s suicide is approaching or the age at which a relative committed suicide may need to be closely watched. Adolescents and young adults especially, should not have guns.
Adolescents that have a severe mental illness that distract through hearing voices are more prone to committing suicide.
Drug abuse can also induce suicide especially when the mood elevating effects have worn off and the consequences of loss of job, loss of marriage orbusiness begin to manifest. People who lost a friend suddenly in a tragic sense and live alone may be more prone to committing suicide.
The lesson to take home is that we should seriously take note of changes we notice in our relatives, spouses or children and them get mental health consultation. Such persons should not be left alone and objects that they could use to harm themselves should be taken away from them. We should not allow religion and culture to stop us from taking steps that can effectively prevent the suicidal action from being completed. Life is sacred,we must all work together to stop this menace.
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