Social Media An Influence To Suicidal Behaviour- Experts

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…Cautions Media On Responsible Reporting
By Ijeoma UKAZU |

Health experts has said, there is an increasing evidence that, the internet and social media can influence suicide-related behaviour urging the media to report suicide as a health condition, not crime.

This was revealed during a virtual training organised by the Health Writers Association of Nigeria, HEWAN in collaboration with the Retreat Healthcare and Nous Foundation Nigeria geared towards instilling responsible reporting of suicide in the media as well as changing the narrative of suicide as a crime.

Speaking during the training, ‘Lade Olugbemi from The Nous Foundation Nigeria, said suicide has been identified not only as an individual phenomenon but also as being influenced by social and environmental factors.

She noted that, “The internet is a contagion and a well recognised phenomenon in which exposure to the suicidal behaviour of one individual may increase the suicidal behaviour in another individual.

“Suicide rate among teenagers has seen a drastic increase from 2007 to 2017 as social media has become a prevalent way of life. Media is s risk factor that can be modified. Also, limit exposure to content that promotes contagion or spread suicide related thoughts and behaviour.”

Olugbemi tasked the journalists at the training to report suicide responsibly while being aware of critical risk factors like; level of stigmatization, copycat effects, harmful speculation amongst others.

She pointed that, in Section 327 of the Criminal Code Act, suicide is a crime in Nigeria, punishable by one year imprisonment for a failed suicide attempt, hence, the need for Nigeria to have a national suicide prevention strategy as directed by the World Health Organisation, WHO.

Sadly, Nigeria’s law on suicide is a legacy of old laws from the era of British colonization, she noted that, similar provisions in other African countries criminalize, instead of decriminalizing suicide attempts.

Olugbemi further said that, the Mental Health And Substance Misuse Bill 2020 has no provision or address decriminalising suicide.

Reeling out statistics on suicide, the former Permanent Secretary, Lagos State Ministry of Health, Dr. Olufemi Olugbile said, about 800, 000 suicides happened globally yearly while the suicide rate in Nigeria is at 6.9 per 100, 000 population yearly.

In Lagos, according to a Mental Health Survey carried out in 2015, he said shows that, 7.6 percent of the adult population had had suicidal attempt in the last two weeks and the aged group most involved are 30 years and under, adding that, suicidal attempts are more common among females, while completed incidents are more in males.

The former Permanent Secretary who spoke on “Why Suicide Should Be Seen As A Mental Health Issue”cautioned the media on responsible reporting as well as desist from idealising suicide as it is likely to lead to copycat suicidal actions.

According to the Consultant Psychiatrist, “social media bullying and modeling, availability of information concerning ways of carrying out the act might increase the likelihood of suicide. Stigma associated with a previous incident might become the reason for suicidal behaviour.”

Olugbile urged the media to desist from reporting suicide from the sensational criminal incident attitude but rather, adopt the approach of reflecting ‘suicide as an illness which is humane, modern and evidence-based approach to suicide reporting.

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