Depression, Lagos lagoon and the allure of suicide

By Tayo Ogunbiyi   |   30 March 2017   |   4:07 am  

The pattern of recent suicide trend is, however, curious. One of the unique features of Lagos is its Lagoon. The Lagos Lagoon, which is more than 50km long and 3 to 13km wide, is a beauty to behold.

Recent research reveals that about 480 million people across the world experience depression during their lifetime. According to a WHO data, by 2020, major depressive illness will be the leading cause of disability in the world for women and children. The economic cost of untreated mental illness is more than 150 billion dollars each year in the United States. Thus, if not properly addressed, depression could as well turn out to be a time bomb waiting to explode in an already troubled world.

The Medilexicon’s medical dictionary depicts depression as medical conditions that disrupt a person’s thinking, feeling, mood, ability to relate to others and daily functioning. Just as diabetes is a disorder of the pancreas, depression is a medical condition that often results in a diminished capacity for coping with the ordinary demands of life. Depression is more than just a feeling of being sad or moody for a few days. Symptoms of depression include feeling sad or empty, loss of interest in favourite activities, over eating, or not wanting to eat at all, not being able to sleep or sleeping too much, fatigue, feeling of hopelessness, irritation, anxiety, guilt, aches, pains, thought of death or suicide, erratic or changed behaviour, loneliness, desperation among others.

Medically, depression is a mood disorder that causes a persistent feeling of sadness and loss of interest in things that the victim is ordinarily usually passionate about. It is also called major depressive disorder or clinical depression and it affects how the victim feels, thinks and behaves. It can lead to a variety of emotional and physical problems which include finding it difficult to embark on daily activities. It can also lead to marital troubles as depression victims find it very hard adjusting to family values and ethics. Indeed, coping with the stress of family life causes more difficulties for victims of depression.

Causes of depression are complex and vary, depending on the particular disorder and individuals. Genetics, drugs, loss, disease or injury, neurocognitive and psychological mechanisms, and life experiences, society and culture, can all contribute to depression in people. The most common, view, however, is that depression tends to result from genetic vulnerabilities and environmental stressors that combine to trigger disorder.

Without a doubt, one obvious consequence of the ranging economic recession in the country is depression. From all indications, the nation’s tough economic situation has increased the number of citizens who run the risk of clinical depression. According to reports, the rate of marital break ups has increased while matrimonial violence occasioned by economic woes has equally multiplied significantly. There have been reports of men absconding from home in order to escape growing economic responsibilities.

Therefore, we now have more women who are over burdened with excruciating domestic pressures. Cases of pronounced mental health condition have also unsurprisingly increased. Along major cities in the country, you are likely to come across clean and beautifully dressed compatriots who talk and walk alone, actually without any destination in mind. This, to medical workers, is a vital sign of depression induced insanity, which if not quickly attended to could lead to serious psychiatric condition.

As aforementioned, depression, if not properly addressed, could culminate in suicide. Suicide is almost a strange occurrence in our clime as Nigerians are, perhaps, the most optimistic set of people on earth. The resilience of a typical Nigerian as well as his dynamic spiritual fortitude makes suicide the least of his contemplations.  Recent events have, however, altered this entire hypothesis. Happenings in the past few days have shown that Nigerians are not, after all, immune from suicide.

The pattern of recent suicide trend is, however, curious. One of the unique features of Lagos is its Lagoon. The Lagos Lagoon, which is more than 50km long and 3 to 13km wide, is a beauty to behold. It is separated from the Atlantic Ocean by long sand spit 2 to 5 km wide, which has swampy margins on the lagoon side. The Lagoon is fairly shallow and is not plied by ocean “goings ship, but by smaller barges and boats. So, it is not unusual to see smaller boats filled with fishermen sailing along the Lagoon. But these days, another spectacle, aside fishing and other such routine activities are not only what make the Lagoon thick. Suddenly, the Lagoon has become an attractive suicide spot!


Barely a few days after a Lagos based medical practitioner, Dr. Allwell Orji, committed suicide by jumping into the Lagos Lagoon, the police recently rescued two women who attempted to jump into the Lagoon from the Third Mainland. One of them, Titilayo Momoh, 65, a textile dealer at Lagos Island, disclosed that she was tired of living as a result of a huge debt hanging on her neck. She said: The problem I face is too much for me. I want to go back to God. If God cannot address my problem here on earth let me go back to him. According to her, she has been abandoned by those that should help her, including her son. Fortunately, her wish was not granted as she was prevented from jumping into the Lagoon by a detachment of RRS unit that was stationed along the Third Mainland Bridge.

On her part, Mrs. Abigael Olayinka, 61, caught the picture of a frustrated woman whom life has been unfair to. Childless, poor and saddled with the burden of taking care of her husband who is down with stroke, suicide seemed a better option. When told that suicide is a crime under the law, Mrs. Olayinka blatantly disagreed with the position of the law.

To stem current tide of suicide across the country, the Federal Government must make concerted efforts to fix the economy. The National Assembly should speedy up the process of passing the 2017 Budget into law and eschew all acts of pettiness. State Governments should look inward to develop their local economies while faith based organisations, NGOs, the media and relevant government agencies should be resolute on the futility of suicide. At family level, more channels of communication should be opened. Emotional healing occurs whenever a problem is shared.

Meanwhile, the police should be commended for swiftly foiling recent suicide bids along the Lagoon. More of such swiftness and vigilance would be required in the days ahead.

Ogunbiyi is of the Ministry of Information and Strategy, Alausa, Ikeja, Lagos.



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