WARNING! A Few Things To Note Before Sharing A Suicide Note
#Let’sTalkMentalHealth is a monthly series by the Asido Campus Network bringing diverse opinions on mental health issues into the University of Ibadan community. Our goal is to promote unashamed conversations around mental health.
Suicide is a very sensitive issue that our society avoids but it is an issue we must talk about. Evidenced by the recent suicide letter of a prominent student that went viral and stormed the University of Ibadan community weeks ago, open discussions and answers to the questions about suicide are important now more than ever.
Everyone aspires for more from life, after all, we are human, and nature has given us the freedom to dream. However, though each of us moves through the journey of his or her life individually, all of us will discover hurdles we will learn to cross along the way—some of us with superhuman ease, others with less ease but an input of calculated hardwork. Lots of times these hurdles could seem insurmountable; gigantic walls towards paradise with some walls being more intimidating than others. We may begin to lose hope, our dreams may begin to shrink, and we may panic. While some healthy people may feel motivated to press on, emptied of all hope, other people may be overwhelmed with unimaginable pain and may consider to excuse themselves from it, even ending their lives since death is believed to bring peace. The fact however remains that depression, suicidal ideation, and suicide attempts are three signs of an unhealthy mind.
Since we should all be advocates for optimal mental health, it is essential and unrivalled that we handle issues surrounding suicide with care so as to help people dealing with grief, and most especially people around us that are struggling with suicidal thoughts. It is also crucial that we protect and respect them by understanding suicide notes and its effect such as the copycat suicide phenomenon or suicide contagion.
A suicide note is an enduring piece of evidence in which researchers can explore the thinking patterns of a suicidal individual preceding a suicidal act. It represents a deliberate act of communication by a suicidal individual. By exploring the content of suicide notes, scientists hope to gain insight into the suicidal mind, in regard to thought content, emotional state, and messages deemed important by those who complete suicide or in few cases, those who could not complete the action and was helped. Exploring the content of suicide notes will also aid prevention of suicide contagion which is one of the evils plaguing our society today.
Suicide contagion also known as copy cat suicide is a phenomenon by which exposure to one suicide death can trigger suicidal behavior in others if there is poor media reportage. It is the emulation of another suicide that the person attempting suicide knows either from the media, local knowledge or the depiction of suicide by the media. Suicide contagion encompasses exposure to suicide, either directly or indirectly—media and entertainment, which may make vulnerable people resort to suicidal behaviours themselves.
The sharing of information is faster and easier in recent times and we do not have to solely depend on media houses to feed us news. Social media has made it possible for various individuals who do are not mental health literates to share information that could be detrimental to other people’s mental health. This makes it important to help people learn how to report suicide the right way to reduce the risks of suicide contagion. This follows the recent disappearance and the suicide note of the erstwhile Faculty of Education President, University of Ibadan, Jude Nicholas.
In an interview with Dr. Jibril Abdulmalik and Dr. Ayinde, psychiatrists in the University College Hospital, Ibadan when asked about the sharing of suicide notes. They responded, No, it is wrong. Very clearly so. Details of an attempted suicide or completed suicide should never be shared publicly. These are reasons including protecting confidentiality and privacy of persons involved. Also, it also important to prevent the Werther Effect or Copycat Suicide phenomenon. Vulnerable persons may decide to copy the methods. In the aftermath of the doctor who jumped into the lagoon about two years ago, several people suddenly started jumping but thankfully, Lagos State had set up patrol boats that have helped in rescuing victims.
We are then confronted with the problem of who we are to share suicide notes. It is important to note that when young people start to equate suicide with a way to escape a problematic experience which other people may have experienced and overcome, it can seem like a suitable option. It makes suicide seem applicable to people who are also experiencing the same problem as them. Therefore, sensitive issues like suicide details and suicide notes are to be shared with medical and suicide professionals.
Preventing and curbing the excesses of suicide and it's related matters is our collective responsibility, therefore, we should be tread carefully and help vulnerable people maintain their mental health by protecting them.
Written By Blessing Opeyemi, a student of the University of Ibadan. Blessing is a lot of things but importantly a fashionpreneur, 400level student of UI, a budding writer and a tech enthusiast who wants to have the world and is on a mission to achieve that.