SUICIDE IN OUR IVORY TOWERS

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SUICIDE IN OUR IVORY TOWERS

Thu Oct 17, 2019 12:13 pm

SUICIDE IN OUR IVORY TOWERS


"Depression was what happened to Americans, with their self-absolving need to turn everything into an illness. …we don't talk about things like depression in Nigeria but it is real" Chimamanda Ngozi Adiche, Americanah.


Suicide has come to stay in Nigeria and it resides in our University

Our attitude towards depression in Nigeria is awful; we act as if it is alien to this land, whereas one in every forty-five Nigerians is depressed (according to the World Health Organization). This means there are about 4 million depressed people among us. Isn't that more than the whole population of Bayelsa state? As Adiche rightly said in the opening quote, we don't talk about things like depression in Nigeria. That is why suicide now abodes with us, with our ivory towers as its living room, as there is hardly a month without the news of a university student committing suicide.

Two weeks ago, a final year student at the University of Nigeria, Nsukka, Chukwuemeka Akachi committed suicide by drinking two bottles of Snipper. Akachi left a suicide note on his Facebook page. The suicide note reads, "Forgive me. In case you are the one who found the body, I am really sorry. It had to be someone you know. I have chosen Jo Nketail's poem as my suicide note: "they said you came looking for me. I don't drown. I was the water, where do atheists go when they die! Lol. Amen" It was the second time Akachi would attempt suicide. Akachi had earlier posted a short statement on his Facebook page on May 12, 2019, saying, "My mental health has been a life support for a while now. Thanks to those who call. Text. Visit. Speak to me. May we always remember. May we never forget. You may have added a few hours, months or days to my time here. But you know life support is expensive right? Thank you for trying. Amen"

I don't know what meaning you give to Akachi's suicide note, but his first post provides us with an idea that he suffered from mental ill-health, probably depression, which caused him to kill himself. Perhaps we leave that and look at Kolapo Olowoporoku, a student at the Obafemi Awolowo University (OAU) Ile-Ife who committed suicide a month ago because he failed some courses. Olowoporoku was an extra year student who ought to have graduated with his mates two years earlier. Although he wasn't the only one who failed those courses, Olowoporoku killed himself by swallowing a poisonous substance. If you think these are adolescent students who are too young to understand the vicissitudes of life, what about Mr. Aminu Zubair, a former lecturer in the Department of Mathematics at the University of Ibadan and a Ph.D. student at the same university, who set himself ablaze in his staff quarters on the university premises? Mr. Zubair was said to have been on his Ph.D. for the past 22 years, while reports also alleged that he had some family issues.

Many things can cause depression among people, especially the young: failures, expectations, broken relationship, social rejection, and so on. And suicide victims are not always cowards as we often think them to be; they are rational human beings like you and I who encounter challenges beyond their power, their faith, and their beliefs. The only difference is that they may be less strong-willed than we are. That is why anytime someone announces that he is depressed and wants to kill himself, he deserves our empathy and compassion, not scorn and condemnation, as one often sees on social media, as if anyone is happy killing himself.

Although I have never been depressed, despite all life has thrown at me, I know what the victims go through. As a university student, life on campus has been highly challenging, so I understand why suicide now thrives in our ivory towers. We study under very severe conditions. Our student affairs departments are out of sync with our needs as students. The counselors and staff advisers only exist in names. The student union, faculty and departmental associations underperform as regards our welfare. Religion associations are only after our mint. Class representatives do not represent us. Yet our parents pressure us to succeed amid these stupefying odds. We feel alone, deserted and abandoned. And thoughts of death begin to drift to us. But we must continue to strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield. We must remember that life is a precious gift from God; and killing ourselves is giving the middle finger to God. Talk to someone when you feel depressed. Seek medical help. Suicide is not the solution to life's difficulties. It is just a fatal escape.


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