Headline: “First Class Student Commits Suicide in a Nigerian University”
“On the news tonight, a 21-year old boy, Tayo O., was found dead in his hostel in the early hours of today. From information gathered, he was seen the previous day by his neighbours coming back from school in his usual casual and calm manner. His friends had noticed a slight withdrawal in recent weeks but brushed it aside as an after effect of his Malaria sickness…”
The information had spread like wildfire as Tayo was known to be a determined, brilliant and cheerful person, loved by many of his friends and colleagues. It was even more shocking as he was an outstanding student in his department and faculty with a GPA of 4.75, and in whom lecturers had taken a special interest in. This came as a shock to everyone.
Meanwhile, on a WhatsApp Group Chat:
Student 1: “Ahh, omashe o. His village people have finally remembered him”
Student 2: “Are you serious? Is that one a Nigerian sef? How e con reason suicide? Na wa o”
Student 3: “Happy death day to the child”
Student 4: “Silly 21 years old boy. He’s so dumb to have committed suicide”
Student 5: “Lol.. So faint hearted.. Children of nowadays. Last last, na girl go don break him heart o.”
It was never meant to be this way.
Two weeks later:
Students’ Union Government Public Relations Officer (SUG PRO) speaks: It is necessary for me to debunk the rumours going around as regards the death of our outstanding student Tayo stating that he was a drug user. This rumour is false in its entirety and should be ignored. The unscrupulous elements spreading such should desist from doing so as it is not only tarnishing the good image of Tayo and his family but is very disrespectful as our elders say, “it is not good to speak ill of the dead”.
After proper investigation, it was gathered that Tayo committed suicide as a result of depression.
Let’s hit the nail on the head. I’m not a statistician, but if I am to go by the number of depressed students I have come across or heard of in my three-year stay on campus, I won’t be wrong to put the figure at 70 out of a hundred. Truth is, many of us have been depressed at one point in our lives or the other; a few overcame theirs quickly, others are actively working on theirs while some more would probably have to battle this disease for a few more days, weeks, months or even years! You know the worst? Some don’t even know they are depressed!
You see, Nigeria and the “Nigerian mentality” do not even help matters. It’s sad enough to know that the economy of the country is bad and so many students are struggling to survive, feeding from hand to mouth; but to figure out that many people, especially adults, do not believe that a disease such as depression exists is in itself depressing! We’ll come back to this.
Many students seek menial jobs to do, others find illegal or immoral ways to survive while many others find solace in fellowships, praying and fasting for a better tomorrow. “The pastor says there is hope for the future, and coupled with faith and hard work, I shall overcome”! Amen??? Little wonder there are more than a thousand and one fellowships on campus.
And when it comes to academic work, what shall I say? Can you just try to imagine the thought process of a student of the department of biochemistry whose GPA is not only low but also crawling at snail speed? A student that tries studying hard to meet up with assignments, tests, essays, lab work, field work and examinations but still goes to the results board at the end of the semester to be greeted by an “E-F-E D-E-D-E” result; or at best an A and 2 B’s in-between. Does this in any way mean that brilliant students with A parallel results do not suffer from depression too? No! Far from it.
Or that of a student whose surviving parent works in the Civil Service, earning a minim wage of N18,000 and is being owed salary arrears of eight months! Now this student, after struggling to pay school fees, course registration fees, accommodation fees finally has to resort to borrowing money from friends, so much that he has a long roll call of lenders to pay back and can barely afford two meals in a day.
Let me paint a typical picture of the life of a Nigerian student in the university:
Year One: “Father! Thank God I have finally made it into the university!” After going through the stress of writing WASSCE (WAEC), writing UTME (JAMB), Post UTME, running around for clearance and more, he or she is determined to put all his effort into academics. “I must graduate with a First Class; I must make my parents proud” is the normal story.
Results show up, relationship issues begin, party spirit begins to fly all over the place, lecturers disturb the female students, cultists begin their hunt and gullible freshers are taken advantage of.
Year Two: “My God! Is this my result?” Here, the student may or may not be confronted with carryover courses. The pressure from different areas increase and there’s more temptation. At this point, you’re no longer a fresher and so you feel the need to act so. At the same time, you’re trying to ensure you patch up loopholes, tighten fixed ends and aim for a higher GPA. “Well, a 2-1 isn’t bad”
Fellowship spirit activated.
Year Three: The struggle continues… At the end of the semester, many begin to console themselves. You begin to ask yourself what you’re really doing in school and if school was made for you. And then you tell yourself “a 2-2 isn’t so bad you know? Afterall Second Class students end up hiring First Class graduates in the labour market.
At this point, many are already contemplating dropping out of school but what if? Just what if I don’t make it out there? How would my parents feel? How would I face the world? Can I really handle the shame of graduating with a poor result? Will this poverty continue like this? Then suicidal thoughts set in.
Final Year: “Can I just graduate in peace?” Afterall, examinations are not the best test of knowledge and intelligence. Many others battle with the reality of spending an extra year in school – spilling. One more carry over and another extra year hits you so hard – you splash. And you realize you’re standing on your last thread. One mistake and you’re gone for.
You see, depression has a way of messing with your mind and if not properly handled, would lead to worse cases. It affects one’s attitude, temperament, feeding pattern, sleeping pattern and everything else. You feel empty. Nothing interests you anymore. You like a walking corpse, just living life as it comes. You no longer care what happens and so you sleep extra long hours, not caring if you miss lectures.
The signs of not feeding properly begin to manifest – you grow extremely lean until you become a shadow of your former bubbling self. You can no longer have meaningful conversations with people so you keep to yourself, ignoring calls and messages; withdrawal symptoms. It’s a whole lot you cannot handle and you begin to feel like you’re buried in a well in your own body.
This is only an overview. Personal stories of people and how they tackled depression upcoming. Stay tuned.
Have you ever been depressed at any point in your life? What did it feel like and how did you handle it? If you have never been depressed but have had to console someone who has, kindly share too!