Monday, February 4, 2013

Suicidal Tendencies In Nigerians teens...Is It Really Shocking?

University of Lagos
University of Lagos
This weekend I read about a student of University of Lagos simply identified as Seun, who took his own life on Tuesday 19th January 2013. Family and friends are still in shock over his death. Suicide among Nigerian youths is not a common occurrence, although some years ago another UNILAG student committed suicide after years of failing a particular compulsory course.

It is disturbing to read "The Punch" report which claims that two undergraduate students of UNILAG have committed suicide in the last one month. The previous one happened on New Year's Eve when a Computer Science student of the university, also allegedly committed suicide at his parents’ home. The 19-year-old was said to be a brilliant student with a cumulative grade point average of about 3.9. He reportedly stayed at home when his parents went for the cross-over service in church, only for them to come back and see his body dangling from where he hanged himself.

We don't know why these students chose to end their own lives but I am sure they were very unhappy. Teenage depression isn't just bad moods and the occasional melancholy—it’s a serious problem that impacts every aspect of a teen’s life. Teen depression can lead to drug and alcohol abuse, self–loathing and self–mutilation, pregnancy, violence, and as we can see, even suicide. But as a concerned parent, teacher, or friend, there are many ways you can help. Talking about the problem and offering support can go a long way toward getting a teenager back on track.

There are as many misconceptions about depressions as there are about teenagers. Yes, the teen years are tough, but most teens balance the requisite angst with good friendships, success in school or outside activities, and their self  development. Occasional bad moods or acting out is to be expected, but depression is something different. Depression can destroy the very essence of a teenager’s personality, causing an overwhelming sense of sadness, despair, or anger but as Africans we have a way of overlooking this, as if depression is something foreign, that does not affect us but the death of these students is an example that it does. We need to educate ourselves more on the subject and if we suspect a teen to be going through depression we should make them read up on depression in order for them to come out of denial and to get to a place where they realize that they are not alone

Seriously depressed teens often think about, speak of, or make "attention-getting" attempts at suicide. But around the world, an alarming and increasing number of teenage suicide attempts are successful, so suicidal thoughts or behaviors should always be taken very seriously. Many rebellious and unhealthy behaviors or attitudes in teenagers are actually indications of depression.

The following are some the ways in which teens “act out” or “act in” in an attempt to cope with their emotional pain:
  • Problems at school. Depression can cause low energy and concentration difficulties. At school, this may lead to poor attendance, a drop in grades, or frustration with schoolwork in a formerly good student.
  • Running away. Many depressed teens run away from home or talk about running away. Such attempts are usually a cry for help.
  • Drug and alcohol abuse. Teens may use alcohol or drugs in an attempt to “self-medicate” their depression. Unfortunately, substance abuse only makes things worse.
  • Low self-esteem. Depression can trigger and intensify feelings of ugliness, shame, failure, and unworthiness.
  • Internet addiction. Teens may go online to escape their problems, but excessive computer use only increases their isolation, making them more depressed.
  • Reckless behavior. Depressed teens may engage in dangerous or high-risk behaviors, such as reckless driving, out-of-control drinking, and unsafe sex.
  • Violence. Some depressed teens—usually boys who are the victims of bullying—become violent. 
Unfortunately if a child is away at University, it would be hard to know if a lot of this behavior is being exhibited in the first place. I think it is important we try to keep open lines of communication and always try to find out what is happening in their minds, in their worlds, in their lives. We have to understand that waving a Bible in the face of a depressed child might not just cut it, we need to come down to their level.. Let's never assume everything is fine. The most important thing you can do is to let him or her know that you’re there to listen and offer support. Every teen needs to know that he or she is valued, accepted, and cared for no matter what.

That said, Light is the key; Light that the darkness cannot comprehend. The laws of God have to be alive in the spirit. Mothers and fathers or potential parents or guardians should live in such an exemplary manner as to awaken in their children or children of others the unquenchable longing for GOD and his will. When such children look into their parents' eyes as well as in whatever their parents or guardians do, they will see selfless love, beauty, humility, compassion, etc. The parents or guardians thus become a living example of what it means to love GOD with all your heart While children are preteen, we need to let them know we are in their corner, gain their trust. A teenager will find it easier to pull away from parents in their teen years if they never even felt close to them in the first place.

Ijeoma Olujekun

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