YOUNG AND TEENAGE FEMALES: COMBATING SUICIDE WITH ACTIVE HOPE

Suicidal behavior is a leading cause of injury and death worldwide. It comprises suicide ideation (thoughts of engaging in behaviour intended to end one’s life), suicide planning (formulation of a specific method through which one intends to die), suicide attempt (engagement in self-injurious behaviour in which there is at least some intent to die) and suicide.

Research has it that there has been a significant decrease in the number of suicide of Nigerians  over the last two decades. In recent history however, we see a spike in suicide and suicide attempts amongst young persons.

According to a concise research done in Nigeria, women represented 60.7% of victims and/or survivors under 18 years of age (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8008030/)

This post aims to provide answers to the following questions: why the sudden escalation in suicide?, how does it affect the general and feminine demographic? What to do, to mitigate the risk factors?

Why young and teenage females are at risk?

According to BBC, in countries around the world, women are more likely to be diagnosed with depression and attempt suicide. It’s a medical challenge to actually pin-point the risk factors that lead to suicide in young and teenage female, however, we get a glimpse into what are “most likely” causes, in the remarks of survivors that attempted suicide.

In teenagers, the most common are depression; due to feelings of isolation and social anxiety, chronic pain; from an illness, and post maternity trauma.

Suicide after maternal conditions was reported to be the second largest killer among Nigerian 15-19 year olds.

Young females are also prone to factors that affect teenagers with some additions. Hardships due to socio-economic decline, having to worry about finances or trying to find a job can exaggerate mental health issues for anyone. The post pandemic effects on the economic power of females buttresses this point (https://www.afro.who.int/health-topics/mental-health).

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), 79% of suicides in the world occurs in low- and middle-income countries, although suicide rates are highest in high income countries.

There are also elements of social pressure and identity crises, which can lead to depression. Sadly many young females turn to alcohol and drug intake, in desperation and despair, hoping to find some sense of relief. Though it does relieve them but only for the short term, afterwards the ripple effect takes toll.

Why we must intervene

Not only is it an humanitarian flaw if we allow our young, bright, talented females lose their lives by their own ends due to hardships and emotional turmoil. It also robs our great country of a better future, potential and raw talents. No one can possibly know what part these females would play in generations to come. Some could turn out to be our own: Mother Terasa; reaching out to and feeding millions, Maya Angelou; touching lives with their words and craft, Cleopatra; leading and serving her people.

Imagine a future with a number of Ransom-kutis , Chimamandas, Okonjo-iwealas, Aderonke Kales, Asas and Funke Akindeles. Women have worked tooth and nail to attain the position, prestige and relevance they have today. It would be a disservice to our Nation and to womanhood to shun or cut them off now.

Active Hope intervention

Suicide is a criminal offense in Nigerian, according to Section 327 in the Criminal Act and prosecution can be up to 1 year imprisonment.

In no fewer that 20 countries, suicide is a crime. Nevertheless, that has never succeeded in eliminating it. Research findings show reservations as to whether legal or religious sanctions can actually serve to prevent suicides. While moral and religious objections to suicide may reduce suicidal behaviour, legal sanctions hardly have any discernible effect. Rather suicide attempts are more definitive as a failed attempt could lead to imprisonment, punishment and/or stigmatization.

It is therefore crucial to implement active duty, to curb suicide and suicide attempts in Nigeria. There is a need to acknowledge the fears of these young ones while holding no judgement, enforcing hope in the minds of young and teenage females. Also emphasize that speaking out isn’t a sign of weakness.

Key interventions like fostering socio-emotional life skills for adolescents, promoting a rich sense of community, building support maintaining energy and enthusiasm, developing a comprehensive and integrated national suicide prevention policy, insisting on child-parent bonding and intimacy. Empowering young females with economic programs and initiatives.

Mitigating the effects of suicide stigma and educating the media on responsible reporting of suicide. Lastly, Restricting access to means (pesticides, guns etc) of suicide.

The all time artist James Brown said in his popular hit song “Its a man’s world but it would be nothing without a woman or a girl.”

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