A professor in the Nursing Department at the Houston Community College in Houston Texas, USA, Edith Declan, has revealed stressful life events fuel depression and suicides in Nigeria.
Among the factors listed by the professor are unemployment, financial crisis, job dissatisfaction, and divorce.
Declan, who is also a Family Nurse Practitioner and Preventive Health Educator, said this in an interview with The PUNCH.
The expert said the current socio-economic state of the country, and several other factors may be responsible for the increased number of people with depression, mood disorders, and undiagnosed or unmanaged mental health conditions.
She said, “This consequently leads to the increase in suicidal thoughts or actions. Current studies have shown that about one-half to two-thirds of all suicides are carried out by people who suffer from depression or mood disorders. Hence, preventing suicides among those who suffer from them is thus central for suicide prevention.”
According to her, suicide is the fourth leading cause of death for people ages 35 to 54, the second for people between ages 10 to 34, and the 10th leading cause of death, globally.
Though she said it is somewhat impossible to determine the exact reason for the rising trend of suicide cases due to its complex nature, the patient educator noted that declining health conditions, chronic pain, depression, substance use and abuse, severe and unmanaged mental illness, and access to lethal weapons are also responsible for suicidal thoughts or actions.
“According to the World Health Organization, one in four Nigerians; about 50 million people, are suffering from some sort of mental illness. Additionally, a publication by The Lancet- Global Health showed that Nigeria currently faces a global human rights emergency in mental health.
“Justified by poor societal attitudes towards mental illness, inadequate economic and physical resources, facilities, and mental health staff, current figures suggest that about 80 percent of Nigerians with severe mental health needs are unable to access immediate or long term care. With a rising imbalance in the number of psychiatrists versus the current population, and in view of poor knowledge of mental disorders at the primary health-care level, caring for people with mental illness is typically left to family members who have no knowledge or formal education on how to manage these conditions.
“The current socio-economic situation in Nigeria can be regarded as debilitating and could be grossly detrimental to the mental health balance of the average Nigerian. The long-term effects of these could be potentially devastating to the future of the country and her people.
“There calls for an immediate need for mental health awareness on both the rural and urban levels, local government, state and federal levels,” she said.
She said knowing one’s mental health, understanding early warning signs, and taking action is very critical to reducing the severity of mental illnesses or preventing emergencies.
“Mental illnesses such as mild anxiety and depression, may be suddenly triggered by day-to-day activities. However, some other mental illnesses such as Bipolar disorder or schizophrenia do not always present spontaneously but can be recognized from slight changes in the individual’s feelings, thinking, or behaviour.
“Certain signs or symptoms can alert an individual or their family of a change in mental health. While it is important to know these, it is strongly advised that you follow up with a mental health professional if you notice any of them.
“Symptoms such as mood changes, withdrawal from previously interesting activities, decrease in functioning or level of productivity, difficulty thinking or concentrating, illogical or exaggerated thoughts, sudden or gradual sleep or appetite changes, change in personal care, nervousness, and sudden fear, can be indicative of a change in mental health status.
“Experiencing one or two of these symptoms alone may not be enough to predict a mental illness, but may point towards the need for further evaluation. But, if an individual is experiencing several of these symptoms at one time, interfering with his or her ability to make sound judgments, work, study, sleep, or relate to others, he or she should be seen by a physician or mental health professional immediately.
“Severe cases of mental health imbalance which can be seen in people with suicidal thoughts or plans, or thoughts of harming others, require immediate attention.
“Comments about gross dissatisfaction with life, suicide or homicide must not be taken with a grain of salt. If they can think it, they can do it. Seek psychiatric help immediately, and do not leave the individual alone,” she said.