Alarming Rise: Nigeria Grapples With Escalating Suicide Rates And Attempts
The tragic news of Toluige Olokoobi’s alleged suicide, mother of the viral sensation “mummy calm down” boy, has cast a somber shadow across Nigeria, stirring deep concerns about societal well-being and the impact of leadership on the collective psyche of a nation. This heartbreaking incident is a stark reminder of the intricate web of factors that contribute to the mental health crises plaguing many Nigerians, from the grassroots to the echelons of society.
In 2020, Toluige Olokoobi and her son, Oreofeoluwa Lawal-Babalola, inadvertently captured the nation’s attention. A video where young Oreofeoluwa earnestly pleaded with his mother to “calm down” rather than punish him resonated with many for its innocence and humor. This clip not only went viral but also caught the attention of Lagos State Governor, Babajide Sanwo-Olu, propelling the family to sudden celebrity status. Against this backdrop, the news of Ms. Olokoobi’s untimely demise is particularly jarring, presenting a poignant contrast to the joy and laughter once associated with the family.
This incident brings to the forefront the escalating issues of mental health in Nigeria, a country grappling with widespread economic hardship, social unrest, and political turmoil. In recent times, Nigeria has witnessed a disturbing increase in suicide rates and attempts, with many attributing these incidents to the relentless pressures of daily survival in a society where the cost of living continues to soar.
The traditional African societal fabric, once renowned for its communal support systems and shared resources, appears to be unraveling under the weight of modern challenges. Neighbors who once lived in harmony, sharing tales and resources, now find themselves isolated by physical and metaphorical walls, eroded by mistrust and disconnection. This disintegration of communal bonds, a critical safety net for many, has left individuals increasingly vulnerable to mental health struggles.
The issue of happiness and national well-being is also intricately linked to political leadership and governance. Nigeria’s journey in the World Happiness Report provides a telling reflection of this connection. Two decades ago, Nigerians were ranked as the happiest people in a 2003 survey. However, in this year’s report, Nigeria has fallen to 95th out of 137 countries surveyed. This decline mirrors the nation’s struggles with effective governance, rule of law, and service delivery.
The concept of happiness within a nation extends beyond transient emotional states to encompass the overall quality of life, social support, freedom, and perceptions of corruption. Political leadership plays a pivotal role in shaping these elements, directly influencing the happiness and mental well-being of citizens.
In Nigeria, political cycles often bring waves of hope and despair. Promises of change and development raise citizens’ expectations, only to be frequently dashed post-elections, leading to widespread disillusionment and despair. This cyclical pattern of elevated hopes and subsequent disappointments has a profound impact on the national psyche.
Former Imo State Governor Rochas Okorocha’s attempt to institutionalize happiness through the creation of a Ministry of Happiness and Purpose Fulfillment is a case in point. While his intention to address the rising rates of suicide and unhappiness was commendable, the approach lacked a deeper understanding of the root causes of these issues. True societal happiness and well-being stem from integrity, transparency, and efficiency in governance, elements that are crucial in building trust and hope among citizens.
As Nigeria grapples with these multifaceted challenges, the tragedy of Toluige Olokoobi’s alleged suicide serves as a somber reminder of the urgent need for comprehensive strategies to address mental health, economic hardship, and societal well-being. It underscores the importance of fostering robust support systems, both at the community level and through effective governance, to create an environment where every citizen, regardless of their social standing, can find solace, support, and a reason to hope for a better tomorrow.
While the causes of such tragedies are often complex and multifaceted, the collective response must be equally comprehensive, involving community engagement, improved mental health services, and responsible, empathetic political leadership. As Nigeria continues on its path of growth and development, the well-being of its citizens must remain a central priority, ensuring that the echoes of joy once brought by a young boy’s plea to “calm down” are not drowned out by the sorrows of loss and despair.