Tackling depression, suicide
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By Gift Adah
Depression is a kind of mental disorder that involves a persistent feeling of sadness and loss of interest in living. It is different from the mood fluctuations that people normally experience.
Most life events, such as loss of a job or death of a person or even loss of income, can cause depression. However, doctors only consider feelings of grief to be a part of depression if they persist.
Depression is an ongoing problem, not a passing one and it’s highly treatable. It mostly consists of episodes during which the symptoms last for at least two weeks or more. Depression could last for several weeks, months, or years and could lead to suicidal thoughts if not taken care of accordingly.
According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), Kenya is not the only African country struggling with high rates of suicide. In Nigeria and Ivory Coast, the figures are way higher than in most European countries, the US or China, with more than 15 suicide cases per 100,000 inhabitants yearly.
Depression is one among the leading causes of disability globally. More than 35 per cent of African women are suffering from depression and 90 per cent have no access to mental health treatment.
Most people don’t even know what mental health is all about. Little data exists on rates of depression and its correlates specifically among older adults in Africa. Among older populations in Western countries, one to three per cent of the elderly suffer major depression, while eight to 16 per cent has clinically significant depressive symptoms.
Some don’t even know about depressive symptoms. In Africa, particularly Nigeria, we don’t even care about our mental health.
And when someone starts going into depression, the least they can turn to is suicide. They see it as a means of escape.
In the country, financial constraints and marital conflicts are the precipitating factors.
According to Section 327 of the Criminal Code Act, suicide is a punishable offence in Nigeria. It comes with a prison sentence of one year.
All in all, Nigeria still ranks fifth in suicide rate in the world. Youth suicide is also becoming rampant. Factors and risks contributing to youth suicide are academic pressure, alcohol consumption, the loss of a valued relationship, frequent change of residency and poor family patterns.
Many trying and difficult situations can make a teen consider suicide.The same emotional states that make adults vulnerable to considering suicide also apply to adolescents. Those with good support networks example among family and peers, or extracurricular sport, social, or religious associations are likely to have an outlet to help them deal with their feelings. Others without such networks are more susceptible during their emotional changes, and may feel that they are all alone in times of trouble and that they have no one to stand by them.
Even aside from what we call “the normal pressures of teenage life”, specific circumstances can contribute to an adolescent’s consideration of suicide. It is especially difficult when adolescents are confronted with problems that are out of their control or even beyond their emotional and mental comprehension , such as moving to a different community, physical or sexual abuse, emotional neglect exposure to domestic violence, among others.
Suicidal thoughts or tendencies don’t just appear out of the blue, people usually display a number of warning signs when things seem to go wrong in their lives. Because adolescence is such a turbulent time, it may be difficult to distinguish the signs that lead to suicide from the changing, sometimes uncertain but normal behaviour of teens.
However, parents should make sure that they watch their children to notice any form of behavioural change and take prompt action.
When depression sets in, either online therapy or traditional therapy will be a great option for getting things back to normal. Youths need the necessary support to fight depression. Above all, everyone should focus on mental health to curb suicide.
- Adah is a 300-Level Law student of University of Calabar.