Why Are People Jumping Off Bridges?
In a space of two weeks, suicide and attempted suicide cases have been reported in Lagos, Nigeria’s commercial city, a state described as Nigeria's Centre of Excellence.
The historic Third Mainland Bridge is making more history, becoming a ‘bridge of suicide’ and the trend is getting worrisome.
However, two psychiatrists, Dr Moruf Mustapha and Dr Oluwadamilola Ajayi, believe something could be done to address it.
They believe suicide and attempts to commit suicide are triggered by depression and mental disorder.
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One of the ways of addressing suicide cases is for the Nigerian Senate to pass the Mental Health Bill into law, they said.
A statement by the doctors sent to the News Agency of Nigeria in Lagos pointed out that Mental Health law would go a long way to address the huge burden of mental disorders.
The doctors made the call against the backdrop of the March 19 suicide by a medical doctor, Dr Allwell Orji, who jumped off the Third Mainland Bridge into the Lagos lagoon.
According to the doctors, mental health burdens are hidden and could culminate in suicide.
"Mental disorders remain hidden, and as a result, such disorders are not being diagnosed and treated.
"It is estimated that one in four individuals globally will go through a mental health challenge in their life time.
"One of the commonest mental disorders with significant morbidity and widespread notoriety is depression.
"Depression is not profound sadness; it is not just an inability to cope with life experiences; it is not caused by a character or personality flaw; it is not a moral failing, neither is it a spiritual affliction.
"It is an illness, a mental illness, that may end in mortality, possibly through suicide," the doctors stated.
They regretted that the Mental Health Bill had yet to be passed into law since 2008.
“The proposed Mental Health Bill has been bouncing back and forth between the legislative and executive arms of the Nigerian Government since 2008.
“In the meantime, Nigerians make do with an antiquated law, the Lunacy Ordinance, passed in 1916.
“This outdated document provides outmoded procedures, terminologies and processes which, sadly, most states in Nigeria must use because this is the only legislative framework in mental health practice that our country recognises,” the statement read.
Mustapha and Ajayi say Nigerians have been expressing divergent views on the possible cause of the March 19 suicide but talked little about the possibility of a mental disorder.
The doctors said that more than four-fifths of all suicides could be attributed to mental illness, with depression having a large proportion of the statistic.
They also decried dearth of psychiatrists in Nigeria.
"There are less than 500 practicing psychiatrists in Nigeria, which has a population of more than 180 million people.
"This gives a ratio of one psychiatrist to about 360,000 citizens.
"The panoramic picture of mental health in Nigeria is not only gloomy, it is dire.
"In the middle of this challenge, doctors, old and young, specialists and generalists, surgeons and physicians, are negotiating their way out of the country’s borders," they added.
In less than a week after Orji's death, the police have stopped a 58-year-old textile merchant on Lagos Island, Mrs Titilayo Momoh, on the same bridge from jumping into the lagoon over an 18 million Naira debt and also rescued another man attempting to end his life on the same bridge.
This happened after retrieving two dead bodies from the Lagos Lagoon.
Security operatives, on Sunday, March 26, reportedly rescued an elderly man who was about to jump into the Lagos lagoon to end his sorrows.