Why the Suicide Rate is on the Increase

GLF 2017 Blog Competition
Olumide Oyekunle

The prevalence of suicide in Nigeria and the forms it takes call for a more scientific evaluation of the motives especially at a time of economic uncertainty. Many have attributed the rise of suicide to depression and lack of support for those who need psychological help. However, taking a clue from a man credited to have taken the most succinct scientific approach to the study of suicide, Durkheim (1858-1920), the rate of Suicide is consequent upon the level of Social Integration.

The more socially integrated a person is, that is, how he/she makes meaning of life within a social context, the less likely he is to commit suicide. On the other hand, the less socially integrated an individual is, the more likely he is to commit suicide. Here are some of Durhheim’s findings in early 20th century Europe; 1. When comparing Protestants and Catholics, he discovered that the Suicide rate among Catholics minimal as a result of the social cohesion and control that exist more among them than Protestants. 2. The rate of suicide is higher among Singles than among those with partners. Based on the concept of social integration, he explained four types of suicide vis-à-vis, Anomic Suicide, Altruistic Suicide, Egoistic Suicide and Fatalistic Suicide. We wouldn’t be able to grasp the social context of the Suicide rate in recent times in the country if we do not understand these types. In #Durkheim’s view, Anomic suicide is as a result of feeling disconnected from the society. The individual does not have a sense of belonging due to weakened social cohesion. It is triggered during period of serious social, political or economic upheaval. Altruistic suicide however, occurs when excessive regulation of the individual by societal dictates moves them to kill themselves for the society, belief system or certain social cause. The individual is thus, over-integrated that they are ready to kill themselves to achieve collective goals. Egoistic Suicide occurs when an individual feels totally detached from the society. The institutions which once serve as melting pot for interaction and friendship are no longer available. Social bonds that keep us attached to the society are the family, work, community, religious organizations etc. When our bond to these ties are weakened either through retirement, bereavement, migration, individualistic lifestyle in urban centres for instance, contemplation of suicide is very likely. Fatalistic suicide occurs due to what Durkheim refer to as over-regulation, where oppression forces the individual to take his/her own life. Many Jews under the oppressive Nazi Germany were said to have taken their own lives. Another suitable example is that of Prisoners who live in bizarre conditions. Nowadays, it is even more surprising to see Teens and young adults constitute higher percentage of the Suicide demographics. Individuals who experience broken relationships, failure in exams, bully or bereavement and who contemplate on Suicide may have been detached from a social bond necessary to give them psychological support and emotional balance. As a result of this, there is a need to critically examine the role of our institutions in giving support or perhaps, in contributing to the high rate of Suicide especially in difficult times.

We can, therefore, deduce that it is not the occurrence of an unpalatable event that causes #Suicide, rather the absence of social cohesion to prevent it. The Institutions that usually provide safety net for the individual in times past are losing their values and also their grip on many. They are either bastardized or dysfunctional, serving other means as opposed to making the individual their priority. Issues of increase in size and maintaining Patriarchy, family business and financial success, educational qualifications and the attainment of higher social status now take centre stage in the family Institution, rather than paying attention to molding the individual and rallying round in times of distress. In Urban centres, families have become separated due to the ever demanding quest to meet financial obligations and the need to be among the elites. The late night home-comers of parents held in traffic jam and ‘weekend parents’ present a new challenging reality for our children. We now have a generation of children who are learning to live on their own, lacking in ability to absorb social pressures, unable to adjust to social shocks and whose existence becomes a mystery to their sub-conscious fragile mind.

The neighborhood and community life is missing today, games are held at moonlights especially in #Africa. An individual is likely to be reprimanded for doing what is regarded as wrong, members of the community ask after his/her well being and there are always folks to be trusted with our secrets. The elders play their roles as counselors and maintaining moral chores, especially through traditional institutions. Older women narrate their experiences to the young, resolving disputes, helping pay bills if necessary etc. What we have today are fenced walls, locked doors and ultra-privacy. For religious institutions, the evidence is glaring of the loss of communality being experienced in our religious settings. The quest for crowd and aesthetics overwhelms the clergy to the effect that services are hurriedly conducted and the majority of those who attend worship services are often not immersed, unknown to many, as they find large congregations a hiding place. Thanks to the commercialization of #religion and the glorification of personalities. They are thus, passive members, lone rangers or wanderers, not bound by the norms of the religious group. A worrisome situation often experienced in Urban settings. Consequently, they are not shielded in times of bereavement, economic loss or social upheaval. They are cut off from people who can provide support in times of need.

GPs on the frontline of detecting potential suicides in mentally ill describe The Self Concept: In a world where there are diverse definition of the self, the emphasis in behavioural development at different levels of the socialization process has made individuals see themselves as special, raises self-esteem and often fail to prepare them for shocks and mal-adjustments. The ego is shattered at any slight change in social or economic status. Depression and the contemplation of suicide may occur when the ‘self’, in the face of our social standing and function becomes humbled by social circumstances since the self-concept is borne out of our how we see ourselves in relation to how others see us. Our actions and inaction to such perception will be based upon hitherto held values. Social Pressures When social expectations abound, when role expectation is not equal to role performance and when cultural norms consume the individual, Suicide commitment could occur. In many societies especially in the Third World, couples are expected to have kids, if they are unable to do so, they are stigmatized as barren. Sometimes, the financial burden on Bread Winners such as husbands, the multi-tasking roles of women and the inability to meet up and satisfy the expectant society often becomes a burden on the individual. Sometimes, the burden of expectation could come in form of constant reminders by significant others such as family and friends. It could be in an attempt to help or profer solutions like the example of Job’s friend in the Bible (the uncomfortable comforters), whereas they end up hurting the individual by exposing his/her flaws, her failures and comparing him/her with peers.

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