The latest in a long list of suicide cases among Nigerian students was the death of Miss Feranmi Fasunle, a Political Science student of Adekunle Ajasin University, Akungba Akoko (AAUA) on Thursday, May 13, after she drank Sniper mixed with cassava flakes.
Till present, friends and families are yet to lay a finger on the cause of her decision to take her own life as she left no reason behind. Claims that she had relationship or family issues have been rebutted by family members and close acquaintances.
Some months ago, the unexpected happened when Daniel Mba, a 300 level student at the University of Nsukka (UNN) bid the world farewell on Friday, March 12 by jumping from the third floor of a storey building.
Unlike Feranmi, however, Daniel’s case was known. It was alleged that his phone was seized after he was caught cheating at the exam hall with his phone. His exam sheet was also torn and a new sheet was handed over to him. But the decision had been made.
These, amongst other reported and unreported cases, show the emotional state of students in Nigerian institutions. As young people, we understand that instability of mind is a common trait that often contributes to depression, irrational decisions and in some cases, successful or unsuccessful suicide attempts.
Findings revealed that about 11 students committed suicide in 2019. Also, research conducted by analysts revealed that students hold about 33.6% in 350 cases of suicide assessed between January 2010 and December 2019. This data presents a grave problem.
With the establishment of Guidance and Counselling Units in almost all higher institutions in Nigeria, it is shocking to discover that most students do not employ the services of professionals at the unit. This has limited its impact in reducing suicide cases among young people. Our reporter established these in interviews with Nigerian students.
Rita Valentina from the Anatomy Department in AAUA disclosed that she is not aware that such a unit exists. She further urged institutions to sensitise students on the availability of the Guidance and Counselling Unit in the university.
She said: “Students not employing their services have their reasons, which are best known to them. We both know higher institution students are capable of taking care of themselves. Most of them love to dance to their tunes without minding the outcome of the steps. If such a student eventually visits the unit and is advised, he or she may not make use of the advice and that will just be a waste of time.”
“The school as a whole has a bigger role to play. Institutions alone can frustrate students. The unit should also be made known to all students who are not aware of the unit in the school, freshers especially. Students on their part should believe in their school and reach out to one another.”
Egwu Emmanuel, a graduate of Philosophy from Federal University, Wukari in Taraba state called for sensitisation from the unit as students are largely unaware of its existence.
“We need to educate people on this. Maybe for fear of the unknown because it is possible some of them don’t know while some know but are scared to visit there to seek advice from professionals. They take advice from friends which makes them choose to stay away from such units.”
“It is the unit’s responsibility to organize seminars to enlighten the students on the implications of suicide. Most people are not really depressed. They just need an enabling environment to be positively active and whenever they don’t get this feeling, they go as far as thinking of committing suicide.”
Isah Jamiu, a student representative for the Crop Production department at the Student Union level in KWASU advocated for the creation of emergency contact numbers to boost communication between students and the unit. He also urged the management of institutions to adopt the representation of the unit in each department.
He said: “Most times, only about three functionaries would be put there attending to many students. So when students become tired of queuing, they complain and choose not to go there anymore.”
“At least one experienced lecturer per department should be a member of the unit in question. As such, he/she will be the representative of the unit in such a department. He would have enough time to educate his Students on the essence of the unit and the reason they should always go there for counselling.”
“There should also be an Emotional Emergency counselling line from the unit for all the students of such institutions. And it should be always available both for text messages and calls. By this, the orchestration of evil in the mind of students will be contained or curtailed through swift responses to their complaints because a student who mysteriously stumbled into a strange situation may not have the emotional capacity to book time for counselling for days before his/her turn.”
Professor Abdulmujaniyu Salahu from the Guidance and Counselling Department, Usmanu Danfodiyo University (UDUS) agreed that poor performance and disappointments can lead to suicidal thoughts. He, however, blamed the ignorance of the unit for its perceived incompetence. He defended the usage of para-counsellors, as long as they undergo necessary training and urged institutions to obtain a to-do list from professional counsellors for effectiveness.
“Most students don’t know about it and that is the major problem: Ignorance of availability of counselling within their school. Most students don’t know the value of such a unit within the school system. During orientation for fresh intakes is when they should be guided and make them aware that the counselling unit exists within the institution.”
He called for sensitisation programmes for students and counsellors to boost awareness and communication.
“They should also organize seminars where they sensitize participants on some of the things that make students commit suicide and characteristics that can be identified as signs in students who are close to making suicidal decisions. If they want to prevent suicide, what do they do? If all these can be done, suicide cases can be reduced to the barest minimum in institutions.”
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