Suicide incidents exist in every society due diverse reasons among which are frustration, depression, failed relationship, mental health challenge, academic failure, among others. What every society strives to do is to reduce the number of suicide incidents prevalent in that society but doing this requires understanding what leads to suicidal thoughts or being able to anticipate it before it happens. However, it is difficult to anticipate suicide in most instances and this makes it a terribly dangerous menace in any society. What drives so many individuals to take their own lives remains a serious puzzle though depression is at the center of the probable cause, according to scholars and counselors. The fact is that a suicidal person is in so much pain that he or she can see no other option. Suicide is a desperate attempt to escape suffering that has become unbearable. A suicidal person is often blinded by feelings of self-loathing, helplessness, hopelessness, and isolation. The person hardly sees any way of finding relief except through death.
Nigeria witnessed an unprecedented spate of suicides in 2019, especially with media coverage of such incidents. Some schools of thought have argued that suicide incidents had existed in Nigeria possibly on a large scale but most of such incidents were never reported in the media. Well, 2019 saw a number of incidents reported in social and mainstream media. But 2020 witnessed a slight drop in suicide incidents in Nigeria as reported in the media. Also, the leading method of suicide shifted from use of sniper insecticide which came tops in 2019, to hanging which topped in 2020.
Massmediang has been working on a five-year study of media reports on suicide incidents in Nigeria. This basically involves content analysis of diverse media platforms, mainstream and social media, to take a record of reported suicide incidents in the country with a monthly update on these observations published on massmediang, and a yearly summary of trends in suicide incidents in the country which comes at the end of each year’s observation.
The 2021 summary showed a further drop in suicide incidents in Nigeria with some interesting facts about the trend within the year being reviewed. A list of suicide incidents which took place in 2021 from January to December (with the exception of May) shows the facts as they were picked from the media, with dates, victim’s names, sources of the stories and a few paragraphs of the stories, as they were published monthly. Hanging as a method of suicide seemed to have gained grounds in 2020 as more victims took their life through this way, when compared with facts from 2019. A summary of details is presented below.
A study revealed that a total of 70 suicide cases were recorded in 2019 out of which 74% (52 persons) were cases involving men while 26% (18 persons) were women. The study showed that more Nigerian men committed suicide in 2019 than women. The study carried out by hypothesis.com, an independent research group, was a content analysis of reported cases of suicide in both mainstream and social media from January to December 2019. The figures showed that 70 suicide cases were recorded in 2019 out of which 74% (52 persons) were cases involving men while 26% (18 persons) were women. The study further showed that 22 students committed suicide in 2019. Out of the entire suicide cases, 54 were young adults/adolescents (here operationalized as age 39 and below) while 16 were old adults (here operationalized as age 40 and above). One child (a 9-year-old girl) was involved and included among the young adults that committed suicide in 2019.
Fresh study has revealed that 63 suicide incidents were recorded in Nigeria in 2020, based on media reports. This shows a drop in suicide cases by 10% compared to total number of incidents in 2019. Out of the 63 reported incidents, 78% (49) of the victims were male while 22% (14) were female. Another startling revelation from this study conducted by massmediang, an online news platform, is that there was a rise in incidents involving hanging as a method of suicide among Nigerians. In 2019, 28% of all suicide cases were through hanging while in 2020, majority of the suicide victims took their life through hanging. Data shows that out of 63 incidents of suicide in 2020, 38% (24) of the victims took their life through hanging, 33% (21) died by drinking sniper/poisonous substance, 11% (7) died by shooting themselves, while 13% (8) died through other means such as jumping into lagoon or off storey building, setting self ablaze, or taking other dangerous substances; 5% (3) of the reported incidents did not indicated how the victims took their life. It was also revealed that 87% (55) of the cases were suicide cases involving only the victim (which was classified as suicide in the study) while 13% (8) were murder-suicide cases. This indicates a rise in murder-suicide incidents in 2020, moving from only three of such incidents in 2019 to eight in 2020.
Analysis of Suicide Incidents in 2021
Details of data on reported cases of suicide in the Nigerian media in 2021 show that a total of 41 suicide incidents took place across the nation throughout the year. Of this number, 32 representing 78% were male while 9 (22%) were female. This shows that for the third year, more males committed suicide in Nigeria and the margin between the gender of victims is high – 78% males as against 22% females. All those who committed suicide in 2021 were adults. None of them was below 18 years of age. The marital status of 34 of the victims was given while 7 were not mentioned in the reports. Of the 34 mentioned, 22 (65%) were single while 12 (35%) were married.
The method of suicide was also recorded in the study. Data show that 37 of the 41 reported cases mentioned the method which was adopted by the victims in committing suicide while this information was not given in 4 of the incidents. Of the 37 stories which indicated method of suicide, hanging led with 15 (40%) of the incidents, use of sniper insecticide came next with 11 (30%) of the incidents, gunshot (where victims shot themselves with firearms) had 5 (14%) of the incidents, while 6 (16%) were recorded as ‘others’ and this includes various methods such as jumping into the lagoon, setting self ablaze, and other methods not categorized separately in the study. This means that for the second year running, hanging has led as the method of suicide in Nigeria, as was the case in 2020. This is contrary to what happened in 2019 when use of sniper insecticide led as method of suicide in Nigeria.
Details of victim’s occupation shows that majority of those who committed suicide in 2021 were students of tertiary institutions in Nigeria. Out of the 41 reported incidents of suicide in the year in review, 28 cases had occupation of victims indicated in the reports while 13 reports did not provide this information. Occupation was categorized as students, government employed, self/privately employed, and unemployed. Of the 28 cases which had their occupation indicated, 11 were students, 9 were self/privately employed, and 8 were government employees.
In terms of where the incidents happened, 31 of the incidents had their geographic location mentioned in the reports while 10 were not given. Of the 31 mentioned, 24 (77%) happened in the Southern part of Nigeria while 7 (23%) happened in the northern part of the country. Details show that 9 cases representing the highest number of incidents were recorded in the South West geopolitical zone of the country (Lagos – 3, Ondo – 2, Osun – 2, Oyo – 1, Ogun – 1). This is followed by South East which recorded 8 incidents (Anambra – 4, Imo – 2, Enugu – 1, Ebonyi – 1). Next is South South zone which recorded 7 incidents (Delta – 4, Akwa-Ibom – 1, Bayelsa – 1, Edo – 1). The North Central zone recorded 3 incidents (Kwara – 2, Abuja – 1). The North West zone also recorded 3 incidents (Jigawa – 1, Kano – 1, Katsina – 1). The North East zone recorded 1 incident (Taraba – 1).
It is pertinent to note that suicide incidents which were studied are those reported in the media. There are a few reports that were circulated in the social media but were refuted by either victims’ family members or authorities in their workplace. Such cases were left off the study. It is also possible that one or two reports may have been missed out during the study and this is part of the margin of error. Data for the month of May were not included in this report due to some challenges faced while compiling the summarized analysis. However, the facts presented here largely represent the trend of suicide incidents in Nigeria in 2021, as reported in the media. Cases of suicide which took place in Nigeria were the focus of study.
Selection of the media for the content analysis followed a random pattern of identifying the ones that reported suicide cases. Massmediang monitored media reports on a daily basis to identify reported cases of suicide both in the social and mainstream media. In most cases, reports found in one medium were crosschecked with other media to authenticate the incident.
How the study was done
Massmediang adopted the data journalism technique in reporting the trend of suicides in 2020. Suicide reports in the media were compiled and published on a monthly basis, from January to December 2021. These media reports were then compiled and analysed to come up with the final report on total suicide incidents throughout the year.
The complete list of suicide victims in various states of the country was also recorded in the study. Most of the incidents were cross-checked in both social and mainstream media to further measure authenticity of the incidents. The doubtful incidents which appeared in just one or two social media platforms were not recorded.