Suicide is a subject many Africans are not comfortable about. We pride ourselves on being able to stomach hardship, (suffering and smiling), so it sounds absurd. It may be a cowardly way out, but it has been in existence since the time of our forefathers. You may have read of the evil forest, where people who died of questionable causes were dumped. We must learn to take threats of suicide or bodily harm seriously, and get help for such people, before we lose them.
Early one morning, probably between 7 and 8am, a young man was rushed in by a large group of people. He was semi-conscious, so we immediately began to revive him. While we worked, I pieced together the story. He was the younger brother of a lady who had come into some money by being given a political appointment. In Nigeria, this is the quickest way to go from rags to riches, from grass to grace. Obviously, he saw himself partying with the rich and famous, cruising in fast cars, popping champagne, and dating the hottest girls. It didn’t quite happen that way. Not only was his sister rather tight-fisted, (at least he felt so), her husband worsened matters. He was a clog in the wheel of my patient’s progress. It seemed he advised his wife not to be generous to him.
After several threats, which they disregarded, the young man decided to make a point. He wrote a suicide note, went out to their gate, fashioned a rope, and hung himself there. Luckily, passers-by saw him, cut him loose from the gate, and alerted his brother-in-law. It was this group, comprising of political enthusiasts, relatives, stragglers, and so on, who brought him in. We soon stabilized him. His brother-in-law was very angry for some reason, and kept complaining. From the nurses,(who are excellent at getting the scoop), I gathered the story.
It appears his wife’s attitude had changed with her new status, and the boy was a thorn in the flesh. It didn’t help that she was in a “very important” meeting, and couldn’t leave to find out what was happening. Her husband was mad about this. For him to be the one to take care of a boy, who he had warned his wife she was indulging (I’m sure the boy thought otherwise), was painful. The long awaited wife arrived in the evening. She was also fuming, (what an angry family). When she got the details of what happened, she decided to call the police. Her premise was, she didn’t want the incident to repeat itself and be misinterpreted as murder. I saw her point, but the manner in which she went about it was rather callous. First, she gave her nephew a dressing down, then, she started barking orders at the nurses.
Personally, I dislike people shouting at nurses. It just rubs me the wrong way. That someone is serving you, does not make him or her a servant, and even servants deserve respect. I have been known to walk out particularly rude patients. You cannot get the best out of a nurse by calling her “Illiterate”, “Dumb”, or “Idiot”! The belief that someone who finished high school is Illiterate, just because she doesn’t have a university degree, is just wrong. By the way, submitting your butt to an illiterate for injections, is dumb as well, just saying.
Back to my story: Her husband had just stepped out, before her arrival. He burst in to hear she invited the police, and went berserk. A loud argument ensued. They were like 2 titans. We could not get control of the situation. She stormed out, with her thugs following, and he ordered her not to return. Of course she did, with 2 policemen in tow. Her husband refused to allow them interview the boy. To calm matters, I told them that he would stand surety for the boy, and they could return when he was out of the woods. Actually, the boy was much better, and I was eager to get rid of him, but his uncle would have none of it.
When madam heard of her husband’s intervention, she stormed into the ward. All this was in 1 day! I hear you wondering if this is fiction. Suffice it to say, God was preparing me to write this blog, by the adventures I had in that hospital. The couple began to argue loudly in the ward. This was a large ward that was a receiving point for in- patients, and had about 15 to 20 male and female patients in it at any time. I was accidentally caught in the middle because, I was making my notes at the nurses’ station. His wife ran in and stood behind me, her husband was threatening her in front of me. And what was the argument about? I truly don’t remember. Next thing I heard was a whizzing noise by my ear. The husband had removed his shoe and thrown it at his wife. It whizzed past me, narrowly missing my ear.
Honestly, I barely felt a thing, but as a wise lady, I screamed and held my ear
“You people want to kill me! My ear o!”
The attention shifted from the quarrel to me. Everyone was so apologetic. I sat in the chair like I was dying.
“Please, discharge them, nurse, before they injure me!”
Both of them started begging. I didn’t calm down till they promised to take their fight home. That is how they left us to do our work that day. The boy was discharged 2 days later. There was no other confrontation, and the police handled their interview discretely.
Lessons; if someone threatens to kill himself, don’t laugh at him, or shrug him off. We need to take emotional and psychiatric cases more seriously in Nigeria. There are people trained in this area who have gone into trading because, people are not making use of their skills. Be there to listen, encourage, support, and even cry with the hurting. The word says we should mourn with those who mourn, not tell them to ‘Be strong’. What does that mean? No, we must not indulge excesses, but we should not allow anyone to feel hopeless, if possible.
Phew! My longest post yet! I hope you enjoyed it. Do let me know, Dr. N