Suicide is not a Crime but Health Issue

“When a young girl jumps to her death, she has died by suicide, which is not a crime but a mental health issue”, says Consultant Psychiatrist, Femi Olugbile.

Olugbile spoke at a recent webinar on “Suicide Reporting – The Role of Nigerian Journalists” organised by The Nous Charity Incorporated Organisation Mental Health First Aid Instructors.

Headlines scream daily: “Girl Commits Suicide, Jumps into Lagoon”. Such stories often go on to descriptively narrate how young people kill themselves, a pattern experts say, has not been helpful in preventing suicides,

Olugbile explains that suicide is actually a “deliberate self-harm, leading to death of the individual”.

According to him, “more than 90% of people who “commit” suicide suffer from an associated physical or mental health condition.

“The commonest mental disorder associated with suicide include depression. anxiety, panic disorder, schizophrenia and substance abuse.

“The overwhelmingly significant correlation is with mental illnesses”, Olugbile notes.

He observes, albeit the Law of the land does not condone suicide; it so treats it as a criminal act while survivor in a suicide scenario is regarded as a ‘culprit’ and not a ‘victim’ or ‘patient.

Olugbile also notes that suicide is indeed a mental illness common around the world and has been found to run in families.

According to Olugbile, “A Lagos Mental Health Survey (2015) showed that 7.6% percent of the adult population (about 8 out of every 100 adults) had had suicidal ideas in the previous 2 weeks.

Similarly, Olugbile notes how social media bullying and modelling, as well as availability of information concerning ways of carrying out the act may increase the likelihood of such behaviour

He equally adds that the trend of suicides seen in Psychiatric studies show suicide attempts’ more common among females; while ‘completed’ incidents are more in males, said Olugbile.

“The rate (death by suicide) for Nigeria is 6.9 per 100,000 population per year (that is to say, about 7 out of 100,000 Nigerians die by suicide in a year) with the most affected below 30years of age, notes Olugbile.”.
He identifies some of the associations of suicides to include: “tendency may run in some families, Some people may have a history of repeated incidents and the glamourization of suicide in the press and on social media may lead to copycat suicidal behaviour.

He admonishes Nigerian Journalists to purge selves of innate prejudices, get up-to-date knowledge and education on the subject of suicide and mental health so as to report with empathy so those who suffer from the condition and their relations would understand suicidal tendencies call for medical attention.

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