Suicide: reducing its occurrence in Nigeria and the world

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Fishes are enabled to swim and populate waterbodies, and monkeys are enabled to climb trees and support the ecosystem. When judging a fish by its ability to climb trees instead of its natural potential for swimming, you could think it is useless.[1] If the fish starts comparing itself with monkeys or judging itself by its capacity to climb or run, it gets frustrated and loses hope for living. Without discovering and focusing on their specific potentials for positive social impact, humans get depressed in pursuing trending standards of happiness. And if they don’t meet up, they become frustrated, depressed, see themselves as failure and consider suicide.


Recently, reports about suicide have increased in Nigeria and some other countries of the world. These include suicides from poverty, relationship-heartbreaks, guilt, shame, setbacks, fear of pain and loss of meaning in life. While some people empathize with those who commit suicide, others condemn or mock them as weak, unreasonable and cowards. Despite anybody’s judgment, it is difficult to imagine the internal battle people undergo before choosing suicide. And instead of condemning or defending them, I choose to evaluate the causes towards curbing depression and consequent suicide.


Suicide is defined as “the act of killing yourself deliberately.”[2] Though several cultures and religions condemn suicide as a selfish act, circumstances distinguish different types of suicide such as:

  • Defence or military suicide: some regions’ military personnel would choose to commit suicide than being captured by enemy fighters. If they are captured by the enemy, they often face prolonged torture to expose their people’s secrets before death. Thus, they rather commit suicide than face such torture, betrayal of their people and agonizing death.


Also, as sacrifice for their people, some fighters, relatives or intellectuals undertake dangerous causes that will most probably take their lives. They include those who wilfully die protecting their people, faiths, virtues and ideals, or pursuing their goals. These types of suicide are often eulogized as heroic because the people willingly gave their lives in service of others.


  • Medical case suicide: when medical conditions appear hopeless, painful and draining scarce resources, some people opt for suicide. Such cases are found more in poor environs having large families with many young people depending on limited resources. In such cases, patients with painful and hopeless diseases may request discontinuation of treatment or direct suicide. Deaths from this type of suicide often come as a relief to both the patient and the relatives.


  • Depression-induced suicide: when people lose their last hope of having meaningful lives, they consider suicide. This type of suicide depends on people’s understanding about the sources and types of happiness. Thus, their interpretations and expectations for happiness determines their fate. This article focuses on the third type of suicide resulting from depression.


All humans seek happiness, and every human activity, quality or possession is valued according to its capacity to provide happiness.[3] Due to their dissimilar influences and understandings of happiness, various people seek happiness through different contradictory sources. Happiness can be classified into two: material and internal happiness.

  • Material happiness is the pleasant feeling people derive from possessing and using material and nonmaterial things. They include feelings from food, sexual intimacy, companionship, entertainment, skills, power, beauty, comfort, social recognition, praise and other material and nonmaterial possessions. Material happiness is the feeling which humans share with animals for gathering, protecting and using resources for themselves and their relatives’. Despite having material satisfaction, man always finds himself unfulfilled, never satisfied on the throne of conquered material success,[4] therefore he seeks a supernatural happiness.[5]


  • Internal happiness or fulfilment is a surge of peaceful satisfaction which we experience by discovering, developing and utilizing our potentials and resources for common good.[6] This feeling rises inside us because of our supernatural side which makes us responsible for harmonizing growth in the world. For humans are the only natural beings with rationality, moral responsibility and creativity for implementing harmonious development in the world. When we respond to our supernatural side by using our potentials or resources for harmonious growth, instead of giving excuses for irresponsibility, we feel happy internally. After helping someone in real need, solving social problems or saving a situation, we feel internally happy as if our heart says: “this is how I am supposed to be”. Internal happiness does not come from what we have, but from the rational, creative and responsible things we do with what we have. Then, our hearts appreciates us for developing and using our potentials and resources according to our supernatural side.


Why do people commit suicide?

Our tendency to suicide is dependent on our chosen type and source of happiness according to our level of enlightenment. While the quest for material happiness is satisfied by getting things for yourself and/or relatives, the quest for internal happiness is satisfied by giving to the world. For in consistently trying to give to the world, the individual discovers, actualizes and utilizes his potentials in response to his rational nature and innermost yearning for internal happiness.


When driven by quest for material happiness, we endlessly desire physical pleasure, social recognition, attention, trendy possessions and praises to be happy. Then failure in life becomes not having enough resources for material happiness. So, we fearfully avoid enterprises that involve sacrifice, pain or lack of resources for material pleasure, while vigorously pursuing resources for physical pleasure. Since trends fade or become boring and human wants are insatiable, we ardently pursue newer trends of pleasure, even at other people’s cost. In fear of pain, sacrifice or lack, we get depressed when we lose perceived resources for material happiness like health, money, spouse, children, position, attention or assets. And when there is little or no hope for recovering those resources, we consider suicide.


On the contrary, when driven by quest for internal happiness which comes from the creative, rational and responsible things we do with what we have, we eagerly seek things within or around us to give at each time. Then failure in life means not properly developing or using our potentials and resources for creative, rational and socially responsible purposes. This drive for internal happiness leads to discovering, developing and appreciating the use of many elements within and around us. We hardly give up on people because our happiness does not come from the materials we expect from them, but how we can push them to become productive, socially responsible and thus, internally happy. This does not mean that seeking internal happiness opposes acquiring material resources and pleasure; it simply means that material resources and pleasure are just means to discover, develop and utilize our potentials and resources for creative and socially responsible purpose. Even in tough times, people driven by internal happiness, still find things to give and ways to be socially responsible. And we cannot get bored because there is always something responsible to do for the society.


In seeking resources for creativity and social responsibility, fulfilment-driven people make higher impacts when they obtain resources, or continue serving with already available capacity if they don’t get more resources. Since our happiness depends on what we offer the world, we are guided by the principles of common good when seeking the resources, in order to avoid contradicting ourselves by exploiting one group to favour another.


In conclusion, depression-induced suicide is a sign of losing hope of the intended source for our idea of meaningful life and happiness. Hope is the last thing a person loses before he commits suicide. If our idea of meaningful life is limited to material happiness, from what we can get for ourselves, then suicide looms when we lose hope for getting or keeping resources for our physical pleasure. But if our idea of meaningful life focuses on internal happiness from the creative and responsible thing we can do with what we have, then we keep improvising with whatever we have, even while seeking more resources.


To avoid the level of depression that leads to suicide, humans strive to consistently discover, develop and use their potential for the society. The idea that real happiness comes from the size of personal acquisition is faulty, since humans are internally beings of reason, creativity and social responsibility. The world is waiting for your creative and responsible gift for harmonious growth. The gift that brings fulfilment and actualization to your existence on earth. Cutting your life short without totally giving what you have brought means denying the world the greatness in you.


Nigeria and many other African countries suffer depressing poverty majorly because of the colonially-made political structures for exploitation. European colonialists imposed commonwealth structures by violently[7] binding unconsented kingdoms and communities[8] under militarized governments for exploiting human and natural resources.[9] With the imposed political structures on many unconsented peoples, they use some sections of these fake countries to seize and export other people’s resources. These seized and exported resources are what different African communities could have used to produce what they need for meaningful life. To reduce the events of suicide in Nigeria and African nations, they will focus their hopes and energies on retrieving their resources for productivity and social responsibility. Instead of hoping to beg or get more foreign goods and services for survival.


Like suicide bombing, every suicide, every single one is an act of terror perpetrated against everyone you have ever known, the people closest to you. Raymond Reddington



[1] Albert Einstein

[2] Oxford Advanced Learner’s Dictionary, International Student’s Edition, 8th Edition, s. v. suicide

[3] Cf. Aristotle, Nicomachean ethics, p.1

[4] Battista Mondin, Philosophical anthropology (Rome: Urbaniana University press: 1985) p.196

[5] Cf. Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologiae Ia IIae question Part 2. Q1, a7-8.

[6] Chukwunwike Enekwechi, Leading the family beyond financial security to fulfilment in Restartnaija.

[7] Oladele Fadeiye, European conquest and African resistance (Lagos: Murfat publications, 2011) pp.64-65

[8] Cf. Richard Dowden, Africa altered states, ordinary miracles. (New York: Public Affairs, 2010). p3

[9] Walter Rodney, How Europe underdeveloped Africa, 2009 edition (Abuja: Panaf press, 2009) p.317-319.