Ignorance is killing us, literally. Between November and December 2017, two teenagers committed suicide in the Lekki axis alone. Yes, suicide. Many Nigerians are of the mind-set that suicide is not of our culture; it is not African but simply a phantasm that is peculiar to the western world. Talk to average Nigerian parents about suicide; to them, it is impossible that anyone they know, let alone their child, could ever engage in such a daring act. However, the rates of suicide among young people is increasing at alarming rates globally and believe it or not, in Nigeria as well. My name is Victory Yinka-Banjo, a fourteen year old grade 10 student of Princeton College and I strongly believe that this article is going to teach you things you never knew that you needed to know.
The Save Our Women and Girls Foundation (SOW&G) is a Nigerian organization for empowerment in girls and women. In line with the work of their foundation, on the 24th of May, in commemoration of the UN’s International Day of the Families, an event was initiated by them, themed ‘Moms on the Go’. It was at this event that a panellist session centred on ‘The Growing Rates of Suicide in Teenagers’ was held. In accordance with this, the organization invited me to this event to speak from the perspective of teenagers on the topic. It was at this occasion that I learnt that even after conducting my research, suicide is a menace with which a little effort and team work can be eradicated.
Suicide, amongst teenagers, can be caused by a range of factors and, is currently the third leading cause of death around the world in young people, ranging from the age 14-24. These factors include: stress, bullying, overthinking, school and work demands, family crises such as divorce of parents, loss of a loved one and more. Social isolation and peer pressure also constitute the reasons why a teenager might fall into a state of depression which could aggravate into suicide. The list goes on and on.
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A good question would then be, as a parent, a friend or a relative, how do you know? What are the warning signs? Surely, suicide doesn’t just pop up. It must be something that can be identified and subsequently prevented. Indeed, it is. A very dominant warning sign is withdrawal of interest. Once a person suddenly resents things that he/she previously couldn’t do without, then something is definitely up. In addition, feeling of worthlessness, rebellious behaviours, sadness for more than a week, getting easily aggressive and more are all constituents. At times, it may be reversed psychology; a quiet person might suddenly become hyperactive. It is when situations like these come up that action must be taken.
One thing I would like to stress and this is mainly to every parent reading this, is that you need to get to know your child. Build a relationship that is dependent on trust, love and earned respect, not forceful respect and fear. Because in situations where your teenager may be going through tough times, you should be and have to be the one to seek medical help and talk to him/her. You have to be the shoulder to lean on. You have to be there.
The truth of the whole matter still remains that suicide is a global and national issue. Even in less privileged adolescents with improper upbringings, we hear stories of attempted suicides. Take suicide bombers for example. From the age of 10 and up, these young girls and boys are sacrificing their lives to do things that ordinary children should never do. Why? That is a story for another day. Nevertheless, the hazard, that is self-murder, is escalating at faster rates.
My time at SOW&G taught me a number of things to include what I have already shared but I’ll leave one more very important one with you. For every suicide committed, there was at least one person who could have played a role in saving that life. Don’t wait for it to happen. Create awareness and be on the lookout as I have started. Together, we can get rid of, or at least curtail teenage suicide. Why not start now?