On August 17 2023, 35-year-old Samaila Ilu of Hausa local government area, in Jigawa State, hanged himself to death because he could no longer live with his financial difficulties.
Earlier in the year, tragedy struck as Joseph Olona, a 300-level student enrolled in the Department of Industrial Design at the Federal University of Technology, Akure (FUTA), took his own life on Saturday, January 21, 2023.
The young student was found dead in his off-campus residence, where he had tragically hung himself. It is believed that his profound depression was triggered by the financial difficulties he was grappling with.
Indeed, Nigeria currently ranks sixth globally in terms of suicide rates, with the highest incidence in Africa. In 2022 alone, at least 79 individuals tragically took their own lives in the country. Such drastic actions are rarely taken without significant underlying factors, and the most prevalent among them is economic hardship.
When people find themselves struggling to meet their financial obligations, they may perceive suicide as an agonizingly tempting way out. To underscore the severity of this issue, consider that in 2022, an estimated 133 million people in Nigeria were living in multidimensional poverty, encompassing a staggering 63% of the nation's population who were grappling with severe deprivation on multiple fronts
People can not provide for their basic needs
In Nigeria, seven out of 10 citizens reportedly do not have enough food to eat, as it is the most basic of all human survival needs
The World Food Programme or WFP underscored this reality in its food security update report titled "HungerMapLIVE: Nigeria Insight and Key Trends," published on July 27, 2023. In this report, the WFP revealed that a staggering 19.5 million Nigerians are grappling with severe hunger.
According to the same report, as of April 28, a disheartening 76.3 million Nigerians were grappling with inadequate food intake. However, there is a glimmer of hope to be found in the data, as by the time the report was published on July 27, this figure had slightly improved to 74.1 million. This indicates a modest but encouraging shift toward an improved food security situation.
Experts contend that, in contrast to Western societies, Nigerians typically exhibit a lower inclination towards accepting the concept of suicide. However, the ongoing economic hardships have emerged as a significant catalyst in provoking thoughts of self-harm among them.
The recent hike in prices of commodities in Nigeria, an impact of the fuel subsidy, has become a concern for the citizens as the average individual struggles more to get basic needs like accommodation and feeding met.
Ore Oroge, a psychologist, told Prime Progress that Nigerians' upbringing has instilled in them the constant drive to 'make it in life' and be the best, often emphasizing that their peers 'don't have two heads.'
Oroge added that this mindset isn't entirely the fault of older folks; it's a response to the enduring challenges that the country has posed to its citizens for generations, compelling them to persevere.
"Now, consider someone who has been used to living a certain way in trying to make it, hustling, and all that wakes up to a country that has completely gone economically bankrupt, making even daily living difficult. The harder it becomes, the more unhappy the Nigerian gets because he earns below his worth, can hardly afford two meals a day, and lives in an unconducive environment. Overthinking, depression, anxiety, and suicidal ideations can easily come into play," she said.
Philip Dimka, Clinical Psychologist and Trauma Therapist, explains that numerous factors can act as triggers for suicidal thoughts, with economic hardship, poverty, unemployment, and the scarcity of job opportunities being among them. These circumstances can push individuals into the depths of depression, eroding their sense of hope and potentially leading them to contemplate suicide.
"So when there is an increase in economic difficulties, people come under severe pressure and stress to meet their basic needs. And when the impact of stress increases over time, an individual is likely to fall into depression, which is a prolonged feeling of hopelessness and helplessness. The individual feels he can not break out of the circle (problems) and decides to take his own life to end it all," Philip said.
Expanding on the issue, he noted that the capacities of the people are different, especially financially. "While some individuals are able to cope with it, the rest are vulnerable. And in Nigeria, the majority are vulnerable. That's why we have several cases of suicide cases and the fact that there is no support for the people or coping skills to manage their difficulties. Addressing economic conditions as an issue can cut down the rate of suicidal thoughts," he said.
The government knows what to do
The government already knows the solution to these issues, but they’re mostly greedy. To combat this individually, the average Nigerian should be intentional about take care of their minds and stay independent of the government as reasonably as possible," Orege said.
On solutions, Philip emphasized the need for more safety nets to alleviate anxiety and underscored the importance of increasing awareness about mental health issues from a psychological standpoint, particularly in relation to the economy's effects and optimal management of these conditions. We also need to implement suicide prevention programs, a 24-hour hotline that people that are prone to suicide can call and get support immediately.