In my previous article on suicide in Nigeria, I looked at suicide trends in Nigeria, talked about the high prevalence of suicide ideation, the lack of a national working suicide hotlines, and little availability of facilities to assist people who need to help urgently. I believe there is a solution for every problem, and that one can start small from where they are, hence this article.
While we are trying to put a strong system in place to attend to mental health as a nation, we can start from where we are by looking out for each other. People don’t just commit suicide out of the blue. There are subtle signs, and I’ll point out what to look out for in your loved ones.
This is one of the first signs that something is going on. When people feel overwhelmed and are slipping into depression, they withdraw from family, friends, cliques. When you notice a loved one is withdrawn, it’s a good time to call, visit and spend quality time with them, talk to them. Pay close attention to what they say and most importantly, what they don’t say – their body language. You can avert a pending disaster by just doing that.
No pleasure in their usual activities
The medical term for this is called anhedonia. It is when you notice that your loved ones have little or no interest or pleasure in activities they would ordinarily find enjoyable. It could range from going out for drinks to seeing movies, discussing their favourite subjects, hanging out in the gym and chatting away afterwards, etc. Some people can exhibit withdrawal and lack of pleasure in their usual activities simultaneously. This is not the time to be upset with them for cancelling on you. Rather, it is a time to check on them and have conversations as to what is going on.
The person has just suffered a recent tragic event
A lot of people commit suicide usually after experiencing a painful tragic event. Keep an eye on loved ones who have recently experienced or are going through a tragic event. I know everyone is busy, but time spent with them, encouraging them, getting extra back up where necessary, will go a long way. Some examples of tragic events are massive financial losses, loss of huge investments, death of a loved one, heart break – especially after a very long relationship, job loss, persistent joblessness despite efforts to get one, major exam failure, rape, and so on.
Significant weight change or change in appetite
When you observe a change in your loved ones appetite i.e. overeating or starving themselves, resulting in massive weight gain or weight loss, it is time to check in. This will not normally be the first manifestation of someone at risk of suicide, as there will be other signs preceding this, as mentioned earlier. That being said, everyone is different, as we respond differently to adverse events. Don’t give them a lecture on what they should and should not do, or tell them that they are gaining too much weight. Rather, listen to them, hear them out, spend quality time to know the roots cause, and seek further help where necessary.
Cryptic messages trying to get attention
This one is quite common, particularly with celebrities. When people are going through a lot of pain mentally, they use social media to silently cry for help. When you see someone putting up cryptic messages about being tired of life, death, strange posts; my dear, please check on them.
It is so difficult to find people one can trust in this day and age, and like a line from Falz‘s Soft Work says, Real ni***s dey scarce.
A lot of people have been hurt from sharing intimate issues about themselves that became public knowledge. I’m appealing to anyone reading this, if someone confides in you regarding their mental health, let it start and stop with you. Do not discuss with anyone else. One of the reasons I feel this is one of the reasons we hardly talk about our mental health, and people only find out when things have gone south.
I hope you found this useful, and don’t forget to check on your loved one today. Make the time.