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Jump! how to help someone at risk of suicide

Dr. Akin-Onitolo A.



A crowd was already gathered at the base of the massive ten storey apartment building when Rita drove in like a mad woman. Not bothering to turn off the car, she abandoned her two teenage boys in her hurry. Her hair waved gaily in the midday breeze but she did not notice. Neither did she allow herself notice the pain in her lower belly even though she knew it could be the dreadful herald of another miscarriage.
“Excuse me,” she cried and pushed people out of her way. Did they not know she lived here? Did they not see that she was worried that Obi was the one who jumped? She had left home barely twenty minutes when her neighbour called that someone had jumped from a balcony, she thought it was the fourth floor, that it looked like Obi. “God forbid!” Rita quickly cut the woman off. But the knowledge wedged itself firmly between her lungs making her breathless. He should have been taking his meds but their finance had recently hit bottom when Obi lost a major contract. But he had been doing fairly well, the only issue was his silence which she felt was because he was planning his next move.
She was taking the boys to her sister’s place for a few weeks, at least until things were sorted. But when she got to Maryland, she had broken into a sweat despite the car’s air conditioning. So she turned around and headed home, to know if it was Obi.
She burst out at the centre of the crowd to where the body lay unmoving, the face turned away from her. It had to be a man, dressed in white tee-shirt and a brown pair of shorts. Rita approached with trembling and knelt beside it. She could not bear to look at the face. There was so much blood around the head. And a mushy substance that reminded her of goat brains used in preparing isi ewu. Her insides revolted at the smell.
There was one way to know if it was Obi. She grasped the right sleeve and ripped it apart. The skull tattoo was absent. Relief ran through her in steady current easing the pain in her belly. She was not going to lose her baby after all. Moreover, it was not Obi who had jumped.


Identifying a person at risk of suicide
Certain behaviours are noticed when a person is about to commit suicide such as getting a gun, hose or rope, preparing a will, constant talking of thinking about death, withdrawal from people, being emotionally distant, feeling hopeless and helpless, lack of interest in things that used to enjoy before, lack of humour, and feeling the future is bleak. He/she may also have marks on the wrist or neck from previous attempts, have delusions or hear strange voices.
What to do before it’s too late
1. DON’T leave that person alone
2. REMOVE things around that may potentially be used for suicide, such as knives, ropes, guns, drugs
3. It’s advisable to get professional HELP which can require admission in an hospital and the use of drugs
How to prevent it in the first place, or from happening again
Professionals trained to identify persons at risk can make swift interventions. Admitting the person to hospital or ensuring that he/she is not left alone is crucial. The root cause of the suicidal behaviour must be discovered and managed. For example, if it is depression, drugs and psychotherapy are commenced. If it is because of inadequately controlled pain, this is properly addressed. Behavioural therapy is also very essential.
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Dr. Akin-onitolo A. is a graduate of the University of Lagos whose mission is to achieve the sustainable development goals (SDGs) using health promotion and improved health literacy. She is an MDCN (Medical and Dental Council of Nigeria) certified doctor who had her elective at King's College London. Hugely interested in travel, meeting people and generally being creative, reading and writing fiction are a few hobbies you could find her engaged in during her spare time. Catch up with her on Twitter @Akinonitolo and Instagram @t_onitolo