Suicide is a menace in every society especially given the fact that it is difficult to anticipate it in most instances. 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 and 2021.
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 2022 summary reveals a slight rise 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 2022 from January to December presents 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. The list was presented in a separate report posted on Massmediang. Hanging as a method of suicide seemed to have gained grounds in 2022 as more victims took their life through this way, when compared with facts from 2021. A summary of details is presented below. First, we present a recap of incidents in the years we have studied so far.
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.
The Facts in 2020
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. Among those who committed suicide in 2021, 40 were adults above 18 years of age while one was 13 years old. 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.
Analysis of Suicide Incidents in 2022
Details of data on reported cases of suicide in the Nigerian media in 2022 reveal that a total of 47 suicide incidents took place across the nation throughout the year. Of this number, 87% (N=41) were male while 13% (6) were female. This shows that for the fourth consecutive year, more males committed suicide in Nigeria and the margin between the gender of victims grew higher than what it was last year which was 78% males as against 22% females. This time 87% of the victims were male. Among those who committed suicide in 2022, 44% (n=21) were adults above 18 years of age while 9% (n=4) were below 18 years old. The age of remaining victims was not given in the reports. The marital status of 36 of the victims was given while 11 were not mentioned in the reports. Of the 36 mentioned, 23.4 (11) were married while 53.2% (n=25) were single.
Data further showed that 43 of the 47 reported suicide incidents 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 43 stories which indicated method of suicide, hanging led with 40% (n=19) of the incidents, use of sniper insecticide came next with 32% (n=15) of the incidents, while 19% (n=9) were recorded as ‘others’ and this includes various methods such as gunshots, jumping into the lagoon, setting self ablaze, among others not categorized separately in the study. This means that for the third year running, hanging has led as the method of suicide in Nigeria, as was the case in 2020 and 2021. This is contrary to what happened in 2019 when use of sniper insecticide led as method of suicide in the country.
Details of victim’s occupation shows that majority of those who committed suicide in 2022 were those categorized as self/privately employed, having 26% (n=12) of the incidents. This was followed by students of tertiary institutions with 23% (n=23) of the incidents, 4% (n=2), while 46% (n=22) of the reports did not indicate occupation of the victims.
In terms of where the incidents happened, 36 of the incidents had their geographic location mentioned in the reports while 11 were not given. Of the 36 mentioned, 72 % (n=26) happened in the Southern part of Nigeria while 23% (n=10) happened in the northern part of the country. Details show that 13 cases representing the highest number of incidents were recorded in the South West geopolitical zone of the country (Lagos – 9, Ondo – 1, Osun – 2, Ogun – 1). This is followed by the North West zone which recorded 8 incidents (Jigawa – 2, Kano – 3, Kaduna – 2, Kebbi – 1). Next is South East which recorded 7 incidents (Anambra – 4, Imo – 2, Abia – 1). Next is South South zone which recorded 6 incidents (Delta – 2, Bayelsa – 3, Edo – 1). The North Central zone recorded 6 incidents (Kwara – 1, Plateau – 1, Benue – 2, Abuja – 6). The North East zone recorded 2 incidents (Borno – 1, Bauchi – 1).
NOTE: 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 victims’ family members, security personnel or authorities in their workplace. Such cases were left off the study. Cases of suicide which took place in Nigeria were the focus of study.
Selection of the media for the content analysis followed a pattern of identifying the ones that reported suicide cases. Massmediang monitored media reports on a daily basis to identify stories on 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
Suicide reports in the media were compiled and published on a monthly basis, from January to December 2022. 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.
There may be a few reports on suicide in Nigeria which were not captured in this analysis but generally, the facts presented here largely represent the trend of suicide incidents in Nigeria in 2022, as reported in the media.