By Japheth David

Yagazie have started seeing a therapist three times a week. Sometimes he spoke about his session, and other times he did not, but always he wanted to hear about her new life; how well she had adjusted to her strangely familiar environment.

Mom had once asked Kosisochukwu on one of her regular visits, “'Kedu ihe o na-eche?’ What was he thinking?” Because it baffles her, how a young boy like Yagazie would want to kill himself!

“Suicide has never been the end but the beginning of pain,” Kosisochukwu said. Although, she never wanted to judge Yagazie’s action but she just needed to respond to Mom’s inquest.

The report from World Health Organization (WHO) on (September 9, 2019) revealed that suicide is topping the chart as the number one killer with an average of one person every forty seconds.

Even if that is a global index painting a general picture, a recent survey shows that there is a surging height of suicide mortality rate in Nigeria, although many of the deaths are kept away from the public arena.

“It did not happen!!” Kosisochukwu had often told herself this for the first few days and yet endless, elliptical thoughts of what could have happened churned in her head. She was sleepless at first, “What was on his mind?” she would lie awake at night, thinking and turning, her mind held hostage by thoughts of what could have been, until she fell, finally, into a drained sleep.

Although it was impossible to comprehend, but it did happen, Yagazie had tried to kill himself.

It was on a sunny Thursday afternoon while Kosisochukwu was returning from a seminar at Hotel Presidential, Port Harcourt, her phone rang. She stopped along the walk-way to fumble on her handbag for it and, at first, the voice on the other end of the phone was incoherent, she stained her eyes to identify the calling, it was her Mom, talking and sobbing at the same time, Kosisochukwu thought she said Yagazie was dead. But what Mom was saying was “o nwuchagokwa, Yagazie anwuchagokwa.” Yagazie had nearly died.

Nevertheless, while pundits are discussing various causes as to why Nigerians are taking their own lives, what looks like a common denominator is depression; a prevalent ailment that the government and citizens seem to pay scant attention to in Nigeria.

“He took an overdose of pills,” Mom said, as her voice cracked with her own disbelief. “It was God that told me to go home much earlier. It was just God! I saw Yagazie lying on the couch looking so sweaty, sweat all over his body, and immediately I panicked. I was confused by different thought on my head.” Already, Kosisochukwu was shaking. A vehicle horned past and she pressed her finger into her other ear to hear Mom’s voice better. “Where are you now?” Kosisochukwu asked.

“At the hospital, we’re at the hospital, ‘Live Long Clinic’,” said Mom.

“Have they confirmed his situation now?” Kosisochukwu asked.

“The Doctor found some signs of liver toxicity.”

“You said what?” Kosisochukwu asked confusedly, feeling choked by those words, liver toxicity; as a sudden darkened air engulfed her reasoning.

“Kosisochukwu?” Mom asked. “Are you there?”

“Yes” The word had travelled up a long tunnel inside of her. “Mommy, you said, what exactly happened?”

“He swallowed an overdose of Paracetamol. He is in the ICU now and he will be fine. God was not ready for him to die, that is all,” Mom said. The sound of her nose-blowing was loud over the phone. “Do you know he also took anti-nausea so that the medicine would stay in his stomach?”

“God was not ready for him to die, I am coming tomorrow,” Kosisochukwu said.

Nigeria is among the countries with no national suicide prevention strategy and it is something we must key into by reducing access to the means of suicide.

The strategy, according to WHO, includes “responsible reporting of suicides by the media” to avoid the risk of inspiring copycat attempts as well as care for people suffering from mental and substance use disorders, chronic pain and emotional distress.

Kosisochukwu stood on the walk-way for a long time, and imagined Yagazie taking the pills. “What was he thinking? Paracetamol, mere Paracetamol; he must have read that an overdose could kill. Did he think of me or how Mom would have felt at his demise? Ahn-ahn, his bed, his room, would have been empty forever.”

After Yagazie came home from the hospital, she searched his face, his words, for a sign, for a proof that it had really almost happened. She felt her tears and her questions gathering. Why had he done it? She had not asked him because the therapist had said that it was best not to ask him anything yet.

According to WHO suicide ranking, with 15.1 suicides per 100,000 populations in a year, Nigeria is the 30th most suicide-prone (out of 183 nations) in the world and also, ranked 13th African country with higher rates of suicide.

Many of those who have been interviewed in recent times said they attempted taking their lives after bouts with depression. And these, more than ever before, are depressing times, with insecurity and hard times biting even harder, it is not too difficult to understand why many are taking the suicidal route, especially in Nigeria.

Indeed, the harsh economic condition has led to all sort of mental health challenges among the populace that could result in suicidal instincts. Yet, Nigerians must be encouraged to become more open as they grapple with their frustrations.

Many suicide notes are filled with confessions that the victims had no one to talk to. It is on this note I encourage that, trauma centers manned by seasoned psychologists, psychiatrists and sociotherapists be set up for counseling purposes.

Where government fails to set up trauma centers, communities and faith-based organizations should be active in providing care and counseling to members of single parenting household, out-of-job youths, drug addicts and rape victims, as this set forms the bulk of those with suicidal tendencies.

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