World Mental Health Day: All you need to know about humiliation — the silent suicide trigger

World Mental Health Day
  • Today is World Mental Health Day themed; ‘suicide prevention’. 
  • We explore the role of humiliation in suicide, one of the leading causes of death in Nigeria.
  • We also take look at other suicide triggers.

Every 40 seconds, one person loses their life to suicide and about 800 000 people take their lives every year all over the world.

According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), suicide is the second leading cause of death among young people.

It is also a leading cause of death in Nigeria with over 18,608 Nigerians intentionally taking their own lives.

Each time this happens, the families, communities and in some cases, countries left behind have to deal with the long-lasting effects this tragedy can have on the people left behind. 

Why are Nigerians killing themselves?

There are several reasons why someone would choose to end their life. These range from mental disorders like depression, financial problems, break-ups, terminal illnesses to conflict, disaster, violence, abuse, loss, a sense of isolation/abandonment and discrimination. 

Add joblessness, delay in salaries, and all the things that come with Nigeria’s dire economic situation and you have a powder keg which could explode at any moment.

One silent suicide trigger most people neglect is humiliation. Studies have shown that people subjected to severe humiliations often experience feelings of hopelessness and helplessness that can plunge individuals into major depression and anxiety which can result in suicide.

Take the case of Saka, a 17-year-old girl, who took her life after her grandmother insisted she move out after she got pregnant. A national daily reported that the victim died after drinking a certain insecticide.

This suicide, like many others, came from feeling shame and humiliation after experiencing a ‘disgraceful’ experience. Faced with shame and humiliation, most people, especially the young ones aged 19–29, see suicide as the only way out.

A professor of psychiatry at the University of Newcastle, Vaughan Carr, highlighted the role of humiliation in suicide saying, “If the magnitude of the stress or shaming experience is large enough, it can produce a catastrophic degree of despair and sense of hopelessness associated with the loss of self-esteem … that can trigger a very sudden and very lethal suicide attempt.”

Is there a way out?

Suicide is a complex issue but it is preventable. To prevent humiliation-triggered suicides, we need to be on the lookout for incidents that could create a sense of hopelessness and despair.

Also look for warning signs like increased use of alcohol or drugs, aggression, withdrawal/isolation from group activities, family and friends.

We should also be alert to utterances from people that include;

  • Killing themselves
  • Feeling hopeless
  • Having no reason to live
  • Being a burden to others
  • Feeling trapped
  • Immense pain

Once you notice any of this, lend a listening ear, be empathetic, let them know you care and that they are not alone. You can also encourage them to get professional help, get enough sleep, exercise (boosts mood and reduces chemicals that can make depression worse) and remove harmful objects that could serve as a means of suicide.

In the words of a Psychiatrist named Dr Eno Kufre, “Suicide is not inevitable if we are more conscious of the signs and symptoms of depression. If we are all ready to stick out our necks and be a ‘Good Samaritan,’ we will help not a few people avert untimely death and lifetime complications through suicide and failed suicidal attempts. Everyone has a role to play in preventing suicide. In a situation where a person’s life is at stake, it is better to do too much than not enough. We all need a high index of suspicion and awareness to be able to recognize persons with such tendencies. Offering a listening ear, advice and aids, may be all you need to do to give him a reason to rethink. Also remember that it will be imperative to get such persons to see a mental health physician (a psychiatrist), for proper evaluation, psychotherapy and possibly medications.”

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