Dateline: November 10, 2022. A 30-year-old female official of the Department of State Services (DSS), Adetutu Adedokun, had hired an Uber car service for a trip. While on the Third Mainland Bridge in Lagos, she suddenly asked the driver to stop her on the bridge.
According to the driver, the lady was in a heated argument with her fiance on the phone. It was 3 am. The driver stopped as instructed. She alighted from the cab and in the twinkling of an eye, climbed the rails that barricaded the bridge and jumped into the lagoon in an apparent case of suicide. Efforts are still ongoing to recover her body as of the time of writing this story.
Adedokun’s tragic incident was just one of the recurring cases of Lagosians ending it all in the Lagos lagoon and plunging families and friends into grief.
A Lagos-based medical practitioner, Dr Allwell Orji had also committed suicide by jumping into the Lagoon from the Third Mainland ridge. Not long after him, two women had also attempted to jump into the Lagoon from the same bridge but were rescued by the police.
Recently, another 67-year-old man, Oluwatoye Bamgboye from Oju–Ore, Ogun State, also attempted to jump into the lagoon.
But the case of a 21-year-old man, Odunare Olalekan, was similar to the DSS lady’s. Olalekan committed suicide by jumping into the lagoon in the Epe area of the state.
The Lagos lagoon and particularly, the Third Mainland Bridge, has become a regular spot for suicide-minded individuals. Some of the victims are found in the process of committing the act because the lagoon and the bridge experience huge traffic. Many other depressed individuals who decide to end their lives do so privately, through other means.
In a few cases, bystanders had been able to prevent some individuals from carrying out the act.
Some of the victims blamed the harsh economic situation for contemplating the bizarre act.
One of the two women that had attempted to jump into the lagoon but were dissuaded, Titilayo Momoh, was a 65-year-old textile dealer at Lagos Island. Momoh said the huge debt she was confronted with as a result of bad sales pushed the thought of committing suicide into her.
The other woman, Mrs Abigael Olayinka, 61, had also complained of childlessness and poverty as well as taking care of her husband who was down with a stroke.
As for Bamgboye, loss of job, huge debts as a result of a loan he obtained but was not able to pay back, and abandonment by his wife led to his frustration and decision to commit suicide.
Cases of suicide are not peculiar to Lagos and some believe that the harsh economic situation in the country has become unbearable for millions of Nigerians.
A report by the World Health Organisation (WHO) showed that more than 3,000 people commit suicide daily. It added young people aged from 15 to 29 years, were mainly the ones affected.
Though the state government is yet to map out a specific strategy on how to stop people from committing suicide at the lagoon, the Permanent Secretary, of Lagos State Emergency Management Authority, LASEMA, urged Lagosians to speak out when they are depressed and seek professional counselling.
He said committing suicide was not the solution to whatever challenges an individual might be facing.
However, a cross-section of Lagosians believes that the government must, as a matter of urgency, find a way to stop this ugly trend.
Segun Shittu, a businessman, suggested the government must make a law that will make parking on the third mainland bridge an offence.
While speaking concerning Adedoyin’s case, he said: “The Uber driver should be invited for questioning. He lacks discretion. A client asks you to stop on the Third Mainland Bridge and you stopped? Is there a bus stop or eatery on the bridge? You watched her alight and jumped into the Lagoon? Premium foolishness on the part of the Uber driver. He should be severely dealt with for lack of discretion. Also, going by the recurring cases of suicide on the bridge, the police should forbid e-hailing cabs from stopping indiscriminately on the bridge unless their vehicles develop mechanical faults.”
Sharing the same sentiment, Mr Adeola Oladeji said parking on the Third Mainland Bridge should be prohibited, adding security agencies should also be made to patrol the bridge 24/7.
“To curtail this constant incident, the government should ensure police patrol the bridge day and night. They should also ban any vehicle from stopping on the bridge,” he said.
A psychiatrist, Dr Maymunah Kadiri of Pinnacle Medical Services, had in one of her studies conducted in 2019, stated that 12 per cent, representing one in 10 Nigerian adolescents, had attempted to kill themselves.
According to her, one of the reasons for the increase in suicide, especially among teenagers in Nigeria is that the teenage years are critical formative years in the life of any human being, adding that it is a fundamental phase for developing and maintaining social and emotional habits important for mental well-being.
“These habits include the adoption of healthy sleep patterns, developing coping mechanisms, problem-solving, and interpersonal skills, and learning to manage emotions. Supportive environments in the family, at school and in the wider community are also key at this time,” she added.
She further said: “A few programmes on the continent focus specifically on young people and there is little recognition of the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the youth. Also, while young people often learn from their peers and build their self-image through socialization, global disruptions have limited these interactions.
She advocated for teachers and an education system that will provide an important and immediate solution to mental health issues in Nigeria. She, however, said Nigeria needs more psychiatrists to be able to serve its over 200 million population.
She disclosed that research has shown that mental health services in school systems can create an environment of care that is good for the child’s education and mental health.
“Schools already use medical students, nurses, or non-government organizations to provide extra support. But if we integrate the World Health Organisation’s training to support our teachers, then we can widen the safety net. The WHO programme helps teachers identify and deal with such issues during their work.
In the same vein, the founder of My Beautiful Mind Organization, Miss Oluwanifemi Sowole, who is also a psychiatrist, urged Nigerians, especially the youths, to remove the pressure coming from social media and focus on themselves to avoid mental health illness.
Sowole said, “Do not expose yourself to anything that can negatively trigger your anxiety. The next step is to seek professional help if you are depressed and having nightmares. It is best to deal with all those feelings with your mental health provider.
“I understand what everyone is going through and, of course, it is heartbreaking, but you should not shy away from your emotions. Allow yourself to feel what you are feeling and speak to someone about it. We now have a coalition of mental health experts who are ready to be of service to you. Please make use of that opportunity and take charge of your mental health.
“The importance of setting suicide prevention as a priority public health agenda by countries cannot be overstated, particularly where access to mental health services and availability of evidence-based interventions are already low. I will like to remind us that suicide continues to remain a serious public health concern with a profound impact on all”.