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There is a growing concern that more people are taking their own lives in Nigeria, unlike before. Several reasons have been given for the rising cases of suicide and they include the increasing economic hardship and sense of hopelessness in the nation. These combine with other things to make a potential victim of suicide believe that life is no longer worth living and that the best thing is to end it. This is bad news for Africa’s most populous country and one where suicide was relatively unknown years ago.

It is just not our culture for people to take their own lives, whatever the reason. In the olden days, anyone who committed suicide was taken to the dreaded evil forest, where no one would want to end up or have their loved ones buried. This is because suicide is seen as an abomination and a shameful or cowardly act.

This is not peculiar to Ndigbo. The rest of Nigeria has similar views on suicide and frowns terribly at it. Unlike in Europe and Asia, even in the Americas where the suicide rate is high, Africa, except in a few places, has a relatively low rate. A report from the WHO said an estimated 9.1 in Germany, 12.1 in the US and 19.5 in Uganda kill themselves each year compared to 6.5 in Nigeria per 100,000 people.

Nigeria has one of the lowest incidents of suicide cases but things are fast and woefully changing. Experts say suicide is a cry for help – undoubtedly, help that failed to come. According to psychologists, there are several reasons why people try to kill themselves, one is depression.

Severe depression is said to be accompanied by a pervasive sense of suffering as well as the belief that there is no escape route. The pain of existence becomes too much for severely depressed people to bear, making them think the only way out of the misery is to take their own lives.

There is no doubt that depression is prevalent nowadays, giving rising hardship, joblessness, company closures, building collapse, unpaid salaries, unpaid rent, rising school fees, high cost of food and living, among others. They add to the stress which in turn compounds the depression which can then drive people to suicide.

People are under severe pressure these days and many have nowhere to turn. Our traditional family and extended family systems are also under pressure, being severely challenged by poverty and deprivation.

Government must take the necessary steps to alleviate poverty, principally by creating jobs and lowering the cost of living. Government must fight corruption, the major cause of our economic woes, clearly and convincingly.

Life is full of ups and down so much that even the rich can commit suicide. Therefore, people must seek professional help when depression threatens. Good counselling can give one a different view of that seemingly hopeless situation. Talk to your parish priest. Since anything can change, suicide is never really an option. If we agree also that life is an examination and everyone has a different question paper, copying others, which can lead to depression, becomes unnecessary. So does suicide.
Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches us that: “Everyone is responsible for hislife before God who has given it to him. It is God who remains the sovereign Master of life. We are obliged to accept life gratefully and preserve it for his honour and the salvation of our souls. We are stewards, not owners, of the life God has entrusted to us. It is not ours to dispose of (CCC, 2280)

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