Home Health From depression to suicide: a growing menace in Nigeria

From depression to suicide: a growing menace in Nigeria



Mr. T is a Nigerian industrious Banker in his late 30s who resides in one of the bustling towns. He is highly responsible and never indulges. Recently, things started falling apart, his work load increased and he’s always stressed out by the time he gets home. To make matters worse, all his side hustles had not been yielding the expected returns…to put it straight, he was already broke.

As the growing stress and work load was not enough, his blood pressure and gradually he started losing interest in his work, stopped socializing, poor sleep pattern crept in then his body started amassing weight. He had lost all hopes and was already contemplating finishing life himself.

This is the depression story cycle of some Nigerians which, according to according to World Health Organization (WHO), is a common mental disorder characterized by persistent sadness and a loss of interest in activities that you normally enjoy. This is often accompanied by an inability to carry out daily activities, for at least two weeks.

From this definition, it is evident that depression is more than a mere low mood as it affects physical, mental and social health. This disorder that derived its name from the Latin word ‘deprimere’ meaning ‘press down’ is however, treatable and does not discriminate. It cuts across all ages, socioeconomic class and educational background.

As a matter of fact, it is a common illness worldwide and number of people with depression is gradually increasing. More than 300 million people are affected by depression. Shockingly, more women are affected with depression more than men! According to World Bank, it is estimated that 22% of Nigerians suffer from chronic depression (that is a whopping 39.6 million people using our current population of 180million). The reason for this will be iterated later.

It is worthy to note that depression usually results from complex interaction of social, psychological and biological factors. Some of these include:

Biochemistry: differences in certain chemicals in the brain can contribute to depression

Genetics: depression can run in families

Personality: People with low self-esteem, who are easily overwhelmed by stress, or who are generally pessimistic appear to be more likely to experience depression.

Environmental factors: unemployment, poverty, bereavement, violence, neglect, abuse, stress, certain medical illnesses, alcohol and drug abuse, relationship break up, social isolation (this has gradually increased), loneliness (very common in old people), social comparism (eg social media effect).

Perhaps the increased rate of depression in Nigeria could be attributed to violence (over the years in different parts of the country), poverty (Nearly 50% of Nigerians live below the poverty line), heightened unemployment and increased substance abuse.

Levels of depression

Depressive disorder can be mild, moderate or severe depending on the number and severity of symptoms. An individual with a mild depressive episode will have some difficulty in continuing with ordinary work and social activities, but will probably not cease to function completely. During a severe depressive episode, it is very unlikely that the sufferer will be able to continue with social, work, or domestic activities, except to a very limited extent.

What are the types of depression?

Recurrent depressive disorder:  Here there is repeated depressive episodes

Bipolar affective disorder: This form is characterized by periods of depression and periods of abnormally elevated mood.

Perinatal depression: This is the form experienced by many women after giving birth.

Seasonal affective disorder/seasonal depression: also called winter disorder. ‘

The symptoms usually occur during the fall and winter months when there is less sunlight and usually improve with the arrival of spring.’

Persistent depressive disorder: This is a depressive mood that lasts for at least TWO YEARS.

What are the symptoms of depression?

Loss of energy or increased fatigue, reduced concentration, indecisiveness, restlessness, sleeping more or less, loss of interest or pleasure in activities once enjoyed.

Increased purposeless activities, slow movement and speech, trouble sleeping or sleeping too much, anxiety, change in appetite.

Feelings of worthlessness, guilt, or hopelessness, thoughts of self-harm.

Photo credit: Mohammed Yunus, MD, FACP


What can depression lead to?

‘Alcohol or substance misuse, panic disorder or social phobia, excess weight or obesity, which can lead to heart disease and diabetes, family conflicts, relationship difficulties, and work or school problems, premature death from other medical conditions, pain and physical illness, self-mutilation, such as cutting, social isolation’

Depression can result in suicide.

According to WHO, ‘Close to 800 000 people die due to suicide every year. Suicide is the second leading cause of death in 15-29-year-olds.’ Abysmally, Nigeria is rated 10th in Africa in terms of suicide rate and 30th most suicide prone out of 183 Nations in the World. This in part could be due to stigma associated with mental disorder in our society since a lot of people with depression fail to speak out.

This series is put together by The WellBeing Initiative, join us again next week, until then for any questions or clarifications send a mail to dwellbeingi@gmail.com or WhatsApp 08068437568.

  • Fatimah Odusote is a Medical Doctor who focuses primarily on Public Health with keen interest in health promotion for Adolescents and Children