I was compelled to write this piece after seeing on Instagram a couple of minutes ago that another man has jumped off the 3rd(third) mainland bridge in Lagos, Nigeria. For readers who do not know, the 3rdmainland bridge is the 3rdof three bridges (the other as Carter Bridge and Eko Bridge) than connects the Lagos Island to the Lagos Mainland. It is also the longest bridge in Africa, stretching about 12 km over the Lagos Lagoon. Only last year, another guy who was said to be a driven by his chauffer asked him to stop somewhere on the same bridge right after he had just finished taking a telephone call on his cell phone. He got out of the car and took a plunge into the lagoon, ending the young mans’ life.
These are very unusual occurrences for Nigerians. We are known to be the happiest people on earth but we must be careful not to be deluded into thinking that we do not have worries or problems or challenges. But, we are brought up to know how sacred life is, how precious it is and how we must do all to love one another, respect and preserve life. It is a common saying that our parents pray never to bury any of their children and for their children to outlive them. But the spate of suicide and even gang violence, ritual killings and murderous armed robbery attacks with multiple casualties is a sign of bad things happening in our society. Things have really gone awry. Why? Why? Why must a Nigerian, or any human being for that matter, think that the solution to their challenges in life, no matter how dire, is to end their lives? I do not speak for people who have terminal illnesses and they are in serious pain that they do not wish to continue living and request euthanasia. I am speaking of able bodied men and women who are in their prime, deciding to commit suicide. Just this week alone in the international community, a world renowned fashion icon took her life by hanging on a scarf while a famous chef and TV show host also ended his own life in a hotel in France…and here, just minutes ago, a young man jumped into the lagoon to end his life. Please, please, please, I have been through a really tough ride too in life. I would not say it did not cross my mind to want to end living just to end the pain…but, please, it is even more painful to leave this life by taking one’s life, than living to go through the situation and come out stronger. You will always come back stronger when you overcome your challenge. You will have learnt lessons, life lessons.
There is no one without challenges. The two internationally acclaimed persons who took their lives as reported in the news media were to say the least, affluent individuals with a lot of social mileage and placement in society. So, money cannot be the reason, or the lack of money to solve a challenge shouldn’t be the reason to end one’s life. Being alive means we have hope of a better tomorrow. Without over-flogging the subject on Nigerians love for life, it is urgent that I say this: we are having problems that are of psychological nature and the need for psychiatric help and counselling cannot be over-emphasized. The youths of now are truly facing a different kind of problem than we had during our days and that is brought by technological advancements and access to information. Yes…these are great ingredients for development and a developing society but they also come with some undesired effects. The pressure on our youths to “make it” or “blow” as they say is beyond my imaginations. Their expectations are not unrealistic but, they have been ill prepared to make it as they envision in the space of time they think it is possible. Failing to meet this high expectation to succeed leads them to doing anything and at any cost. There lies one of the big issues in our society today.
Our society is replete with youths who are unemployed, pressured by society due to their unhindered access to information which fans expectations that they are ill equipped to attain. They begin to change their social habits, some become withdrawn, others have their situation even compounded in that they are sole bread winners in their family or have lost one or both parents and can barely make ends meet. Some turn their frustration into anger and commit crimes that ordinarily they would not have dared. Others turn to vices like drugs peddling or consumers of narcotics as a way to block out their pain, while some end up becoming suicidal. It is high time our educational system inculcates into the curriculum at an early stage, say SS-1, mandatory classes for managing stress and detection of psychological disorders. This will go a long way in helping the youths of today understand how to manage the pressures from this information age. It is easy for the youths of today to take a decision to end their life…why? They have information available to them on how to do so from the internet. They have even seen how people have done so, also from the internet. They read real-time news of situations happening all over the world. So, they know that in faraway countries like Venezuela, where people get killed just to be robbed of a pair of shoes, where the value for life is almost non-existent.
We need a lot of psychiatrists and centers for counselling so as to help people having challenges, talk to someone who may be able to navigate their minds through the “chaos” they see with their daily living. We used to think that we were isolated from this sort of psychological misfunctioning because we have a rather strong nuclear family setup…but even that is fast being eroded but the isolation one can have due to the proliferation of technology. Physical contact is now a luxury as we can skype anyone, send WhatsApp to anyone anywhere and even send a digital birthday cake via Instagram to our loved ones. But when you are dealing with a difficult financial or emotional challenge, there is little those things can do. At that point, we must go back to the basics: 1) Family, 2) Friends and 3) Work Colleagues and employers are at the frontline of the defense to help or offer help to people who have become distressed and feel all hope is lost. Please, do not leave them to withdraw into their shell. This is where all the negative thoughts become birthed and are given credence in self-valuating of their thoughts and recycling of their position as to why they cannot continue to live. Please, family, friends, be on the lookout for your friends or family members who have suddenly stopped calling you, replying your messages or suddenly find nothing to say during conversations and will choose to be left alone when others are trying to have fun.
Now let’s not misunderstand this with introverted personalities. Introversion is not an issue but, when we take an assessment of what an individual is passing through at a point in time, we can already be able to distinguish between introversion and one who is in need of psychiatric help. Again, lets not stereotype people needing psychiatric help as being mentally deranged…we all have had need for psychiatric help at some point in our lives…that we survived without it is just a thing of chance…but we all need to visit a psychologist at least once or twice in a year just to ensure that we are truly balanced in our psyche, just as we need to have an annual medical check-up either as mandated by our employing companies or just as a thing that is a recommended best practice. Employers should also take a lead here. They are also stressors (a stress inducing agent) and need to take responsibility for the mental well-being of their staff. Work pressure has driven some people to suicide. Some employees have had their careers stagnated by the direct actions of their employer and it is on record in this country, people who have either committed suicide at their work place or taken their frustration our on their bosses and hurt someone in the process. Employers should make it mandatory for their employees to see a psychiatrist annually as part of their annual medical recertification. This will cost nothing extra but provides employers if their employees are psychologically stable. Suicide victims leave behind loved ones who remain traumatized by the sudden loss of a close friend or relative.
The problems typically do not disappear but even become compounded for the surviving family members. Please get help. No one is an island, no one can solve their life challenges alone. Sometimes, all that is needed is talking to someone and sharing the burden. We all have them…and if you are religiously inclined, talk to God…do what you can and leave what you can’t. Let’s help each other overcome our challenges even if it means just leaning on someone shoulder to cry. It helps to cry once in a while.