Dr Ojum Ekeoma Ogwo
Prof Alex Lickerman in his famous treatise and didactic book, enumerated the “ 6 reasons why people commit suicide” as follows:
1) They are depressed.
2) They are psychotic.
3) They are impulsive.
4) They are crying for help, and don’t know how else to get it.
5) They have a philosophical desire to die. And
6) They have made a mistake.
Yes, we have to agree with Prof Lickerman in toto. But as one of our professors used to say when we were medical students “have you considered the African perspective”? Truly, in the 19 and 20 centuries, a medical research showed that suicide rate was lowest in Africa, yet Africa was and still remains the poorest Continent.
Those were Africa years of innocence, since suicide is the state of the mind.
It was postulated that Africa adopted certain survival concepts. a) The sour grapes concept – from a fable by Aesop. That is the disparagement of something out of chagrin, at not being able to get it. It makes one breathe easy.
b) Concept of contentment – like “ I was crying I had no pair of shoes, until I saw someone without a leg”. At every stage of our lives, we have some people better than us, and some people we are better than. We can rationalise our lives by hoping for a better tomorrow.
c) Concept of the opium – Karl Marx said “religion is the opium of the people “. Marx was making structural and functionaI argument about religion, and particularly about organised religion. Marx believed that religion had certain practical functions in the society, that were similar to the function of opium in a sick or injured person: it reduces people’s immediate sufferings and provided them with pleasant illusions, but it also reduced their energy and their willingness to confront the oppressive, heartless and soulless reality that capitalism had forced them into. People who commit suicide have rejected religion and it’s promise of future paradise.
How do we explain suicide?
Yes suicide occurs in almost all societies, but occurs in some, far more than others, and in some eras more than others. Two things seem to explain the differences.
1.) Prosperity: Suicide is a phenomenon of prosperous countries, prosperous regions, even cities – prosperous neighbourhood are all dens of suicide. While in many poor lands in Africa, suicide is so low that the word suicide, and the concept are barely understood.
■ Note that suicide does not occur when the outside world makes a struggle for us to keep alive. It appears when the society leaves us alone with our consciousness. That is we move away from African community of extended family system, to the Western type nuclear-family, where we have the audacity to take our biological mothers and fathers to old people’s homes, instead of looking after them.
This includes the effect of religion and moral belief. Our decline in religious fear of suicide is hard to separate from the impact of prosperity.
Can you imagine that a medical doctor Dr Allwell Orji, could tell his driver to stop his car on 3rd-mainland-bridge, then jump off the bridge to commit suicide. Education made him to fear God less.
■ The most traditionally Christian countries are also among the most rural and the most poor, according to Man’s Body by the Diagrams Group. In any case, when a suicide rate seems to rise, as attitudes change, it may only mean that suicide is more openly admitted. However history noted that in imperial Rome, and modern Japan, suicide declined as prosperity rose, because an ancient code that valued suicide as honourable death or death of valour was abrogated.
Let us discuss the individual and suicide:
■ Suicide is a product of social isolation – of loneliness and the sense of uselessness.
Single people are more likely to kill themselves than married, widowed more likely to kill themselves than single, and divorced more likely than widowed.
Read above statement again and understand where I am coming from.
■ The products of broken homes are more likely to commit suicide than the products of happy homes. And those with no religious convictions are more likely to commit suicide than those that have.
■ Modern prosperity is accompanied by suicide, which include
a) The familiar features of industrial society.
b) The geographical and social mobility.
c) The separation of young and aging adults from the family.
d) The pressure to achieve.
e) The lack of role for those who can no longer work (now that school is almost compulsory, grandparents are no longer needed to look after their grandchildren), so grandparents are now redundant. All these and the other features that they create, such as the failure rate of modern marriages, leave individuals and even family units struggling to persuade themselves that they have a place that they belong to, and are of value to others.
► Next week we shall discuss sex & suicide, age & suicide, and attempted suicide. And how to avoid committing suicide. Please follow me on twitter; @_ DRSUN