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Sniper: Insecticide Now A Suicide Weapon

It was the fourth day of the week and the sun was about to set when Shederack was seen soliloquizing as he wandered in the compound he lived with his wife, Joy and three-year-old son, Kelvin. Engineer Shederack Coker, in his early 30’s was once known for his cheerful attitude and love towards his family until he lost his job.

The young man, who was abandoned by his wife and kid barely a week later had become the opposite of himself. On that faithful day he stood close to his former quarters, mumbling words with a white bottle in his hands. No one understood the faint words he was saying.

Few hours after we heard rumours of his death. He had killed himself by consuming a poisonous substance, which was apparently in the white bottle he was holding. Reports had it that Shederack committed suicide after leaving a Facebook message “I was happy, I had a lovely family I could die for. They were my light, my joy and life. I did my best to make them happy, but unemployment robbed me of my treasure. Now there’s only darkness and only this affordable friend of mine can put an end to this pain. I will forever love and cherish you both.” Shederack committed suicide because he felt it was his only option.

Recently, the incidence of suicide in the country has reached an alarming and disturbing rate. From hanging on tree and ceiling fans, to intentionally drowning or drinking poison, suicide appears to have become one of the leading causes of death.

In 2016, suicide was rated the second leading cause of death among people aged 15 to 19 years globally, and over 79 percent of global suicide were reported to occur in low and middle-income countries including Nigeria. Amongst Africa’s top ten economies also in 2016, Nigeria had the third highest suicide rate as the country trails South Africa and Ethiopia which are the continent’s second and eight largest economies respectively.

On July 29, 2018, Spectator Index published a World Health Organization research that ranked suicide per 100,000 per country and Nigeria was ranked 5th with 15,000 suicides in every 100,000. Nigerians who were once referred to as the happiest people on earth, have become depressed and suicidal, judging from recent statistics from the World Happiness Report.

In most religions and traditions, the intentional killing of oneself remains a taboo. And though in Nigeria, suicide is a punishable offence with one year jail term for offenders, under section 327 of the Criminal Code; such attempts continue to be on the rise, especially with Sniper Insecticide as the adopted means to such dreadful end.

The word “Sniper” which literally connotes death, is a DDVP 2, 2-Dichlorovinyl dimethyl phosphate compound, originally invented for agricultural or greenhouse use but which have been domesticated by most Nigerians for use as household insecticide and rodent killer, due to its efficacy, cheap and unrestricted availability almost everywhere in the country (at local stores, fancy supermarkets and even by hawkers) which has caused its utility to be perverted and misappropriated by suicidal youths.

On January 2nd, this year a popular Nigerian Disk Jockey, Seun Omogaji better known as DJ Xgnee committed suicide by drinking Sniper after leaving a suicide note on instagram. Few days after the incident, it was reported that a Lagos-based businessman, Michael Asiwaju a.k.a. Mike Cash, ended his life through the same means after posting a suicide note stating “Goodbye I’ll die soon. I am gone,” on his twitter handle following an accusation of rape.

Recently in Rivers State, a Kenpoly graduate, Charles Paul Orji reportedly added to the above mentioned trend by gulping three bottles of Sniper at his home in Bori after receiving a breakup SMS from his estranged girlfriend.

Indeed, cases like these shows that the choice of how to die often depends on the most available and convenient means at hand as Sniper insecticide is today found in almost all homes. Practically in all suicide cases, frustration rather than poverty is the prime factor as a fairly comfortable person could still commit suicide due to frustration. Thus the reasons people choose to end their lives vary. Some do so because of complicated relationship, blackmail and shame while others commit suicide because of debt, rejection, inferiority complex and economic hardship.

Depression is a medical condition, a psychological state of unhappiness or low morale, which lasts longer than several weeks and may include ideation of self-inflicted injury or suicide.

Dr Patrick Ogbolu, a Consultant Psychiatrist said “hopelessness is about the strongest indication that someone will go on to kill himself or herself.” No doubt when in the mind all hope is lost then the essence of living is lost, thus resulting in depression.

Depression is indeed an unpleasant experience. Mark Richardson once said “depression is a cruel mistress; the deep dark pit of introspection and self-loathing and perceived futility of existence, the hopelessness, despair, sense of isolation, feeling of utter uselessness and even the darkest of thoughts. Do not judge, you never know what someone is going through behind a smile or a laugh.”

The truth remains that we are both strong and weak as human beings and the only thing that differentiates us is how much we are able to withhold and hide that weakness. “Ignorance to the perils of depression might be a cause for lack of attention. If you don’t know what depression is and that you need help to treat or manage it, you see your suicidal thoughts as your only option,” he said.

Experts say people do not commit suicide solely because of pain. They do because they don’t believe there is a reason to live following significant drop in the level of neuro transmitters in their brains. Neuro transmitters are chemicals in the brain, which changes (reduces or increases) when there is a feeling of frustration or happiness. For every individual that is sad about a mere incident, the level of the chemicals decrease (thus making such an individual feel sad) but with time, increase to normal state. But for a depressed person, the level of neurons hardly returns to normal thus triggering suicidal thoughts which in order wards become a psychiatric emergency.

A suicidal person may not ask for help but that doesn’t mean that help isn’t needed. As a country and society, we would always have to deal with such deviant behavior. However, what is important is our level of preparedness to reduce the scope and range of the menace. When people fall into depression in other countries, they visit counsellors and psychiatrists but just a few Nigerians see such processes as imperative. Psychiatry is yet another relevant discipline that has been utterly neglected. Most individuals don’t even know who to go to, or talk to when they are depressed.

In 2016, Nigeria’s Health Minister, Prof Isaac Adewole declared on Twitter that there was more demand for services in Nigeria as the Federal Neuro Psychiatric Hospital in Yaba recorded 59% rise in new mental health cases. According to the Association of Psychiatric Nurses of Nigeria, the world is going through crisis and psychological trauma is precipitant to mental breakdown.

It is imperative to note that “Mental health is as important as physical health but government agencies and international organisations tend to focus more on catering for the physical needs of the people rather than mental needs.”

Investigation by healthnews.africa revealed that while Nigeria has a rapidly evolving suicide crisis, efforts to support suicide victims are being frustrated by existing laws that make suicide to be a crime, thus instigating fear of victimization in victims that wish to seek and access help. It is therefore necessary that support systems for individuals with high tendency of committing suicide be created.

There is need for government, NGOs, religious organizations and other institutions to establish counseling centres where people could visit to seek succor. Families, friends and relatives must show love and concern to loved ones especially those usually withdrawn, moody, sad and irritable, most importantly, whenever it is observed that depression has set in. There is also a need for massive public enlightenment on the need to regularly visit a counselor and psychologist to help bounce back after stressful and traumatic events which obviously have become a daily occurrence in our society.

The government also has a role to play through people-centered governance geared towards delivering the much expected positive change in the society in order to improve the standard of living in order to convert people’s pessimism into optimism.

There is also need to restrict the sale or access to Sniper insecticide, as there is no way the “suicide by Sniper” occurrences can be controlled with its proliferation.

The insecticide getting into wrong hands may not end by placing ban on it, nevertheless its availability must be controlled by relevant authorities to truly curb the trending menace in the country.

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