Yesterday, I stumbled upon the diary of a 17-year-old teenager. The diary contains experiences that would turn grey the hair of a 5-year-old. “Really? This girl alone and all these troubles and escapades?”, I asked myself. After going through the pages, I read of an event she narrated asking the diary to help her keep the memory of what she did to herself on the 13th of April, 2020. With the way she wrote of that event, I let loose the cat in me not minding if the curiosity would kill me.
I called and confronted her. “Please, trust and tell me what happened. I can and will help. Something is not right and I really need to know where things went wrong”, I said. Though reluctant, she gave in and told me about that particular even with tears rolling down her cheeks like the waters of Asejire Dam. What happened?
The girl, 17, is in love with a guy who is probably in his early twenties. She has not seen him for some time, so, felt that there was a need to see him. According to her, he had called the guy asking to visit him only for her cupid gesture to be declined by her Romeo. The frustrated young lady will not take the rejection lightly. She was pained and embittered, sadder than a Rose who just lost her Jack. That night, she injected herself twice.
Flabbergasted, enraged, and at the same time, empathetic, I asked her what she injected herself with. “An injection”, she replied. I am not a doctor and it was difficult to get her to understand that I was asking about the content in that syringe. When she got it, she said, “with Raid”. “Which medicine is Raid”, I asked and she replied, “That they use to kill mosquitoes”.
“AHH! You put mosquito spray in your body?!”, I gently exclaimed as my emotions failed me and at the same time was not going to scare her from saying more. I told her that I do not understand. I was naive, I did not know that the spray can stay in a syringe. “Did you spray it inside it? Ho did the content not escape into the air?”, I asked and I got my answers. I will not go into the details here.
“Did you want to kill yourself?:, I asked. She said, “NO”, then why? “to feel good and lift my mood?”, she said. In all my years, I have only heard of people drinking alcohol and doing drugs, but for injecting oneself with mosquito spray, that is bizarre.
I went on with the questioning. “So, you want to kill yourself because of a boy”, I asked. “No”, she said… ” I DID IT FOR LOVE”. At that moment, I felt as if a church bell was ringing in my ears and I had smirked and scoffed and the ridiculous statement came funny like one of Charlie Chaplin’s acts; I laughed as well.
“LOOOOOOOOOOVE?!!!!”, you want to kill yourself because of a guy that does not f******g care about you? Where did you get that idea of love? In 10 years, you’ll be 27 and you would still be young. We will fight this together and you will look back at this time and laugh at how you used to be stupid”, I remarked.
FIRE ON THE MOUNTAIN
Today, the rate at which teenagers commit suicide is alarming. I do not present myself as a psychologist and mental health personnel, but for some years now, I have managed some cases with many more active cases at the time of this writing. We are having a different set of teenagers in our world of today.
It is important that parents take heed, get sensitized, and enlightened as to the thought process of our children especially in a “woke’ and ‘tweeter’ generation a.k.a ‘Indomie Generation. As it is, African parents are giving birth to Western children. Without minding the fear of being misunderstood, misquoted, and misinterpreted, the need to go back to raising our children the African way just as our parents did has become more important.
While it is understandable that some may commit suicide due to sexual abuse, ill-treatment from step-parents and factors like these, most cases we have around are a result of the Westernization of our child upbringing approach. The rate of depression and suicide today is being largely influenced by western practices in an African setting.
In a 2004 report from the WHO, the USA sat at the first spot on the list of countries with the highest rate of depression while Nigeria while Mozambique sat at the 163 on the list. Likewise, in an article published by The Guardian in 2015, titled, “In Which Countries Does Mental Health Have The Highest Impact?”, Afghanistan was the only low-income country in the top 20 for number of years lost to mental health. In 2014, there was only one health worker per 100,000 population compared with more than 50 in some higher countries yet these higher countries lose more people to mental health.
Looking at the suicide rate by region in 2016, the WHO in its report, has Europe at the top of the table while Africa is second to the last on the table just above the Eastern Mediterranean. Also, the suicide rate by income group in a 2012 report saw high-income countries at the top of the table and it goes on a descending other with the low-income countries at the bottom.
We need to understand that not everything African is bad and needs to be discarded and not everything Western is good and should be embraced. As an African man, I strongly advocate that children need to be flogged just as the Bible puts it (interpretation of the meaning),
Proverbs 23:13-14 Don’t fail to discipline your children. They won’t die if you spank them.
Proverbs 13:24 Whoever does not discipline his son hates him, but whoever loves him is diligent to correct him.
Proverbs 29:15 A rod and reproof impart wisdom, but a child who is unrestrained brings shame to his mother.
Last week, the story of a father who was disciplining his son for not sitting for English and Maths exams trended. The father paid $21,000 as his school fee. How were we convinced that the father who paid such amount hates the child for beating him? “Child abuse”, human rights organizations will say.
As a man, I cannot look at my mother in the eyes but a child in America will slap his own mother. And if disciplined, calls 911. Unconsciously, in the name of education and civilization, we are moving towards this path at an alarming speed. We now have American children in African lands.
While some have very reasonable proofs to be depressed, the case of many is merely, “one who is filled and looking for what would burst his stomach” (Yoruba Adage).
Given the WHO statistics cited earlier and looking at the African situation, it is easier for the son of a wealthy person to be depressed or commit suicide than a poor man’s just as educated ones are at risk of these compared to the uneducated ones.
I am not an American, not a European, I am an African man and this is directed towards African parents. Call me names, this article will stand as a witness in the nearest future.
As a parent, you need to control the freedom you give to your children. They are children and should be treated as such. It is irrational that a parent, if there are no psychological delivers, would treat their own children like animals. Sometimes, you have to hate to love just as the physiotherapists use pains to make hale.
Only one whose mind is rotten would see these submissions as a campaign for child abuse. The freedom of children needs to be restricted. Many times I have listens to youths telling me they are introverts, they love to be alone when it only brings them close to depression. When they tell me what bothers them, I ask them to tell their parents first and how can you solve boredom by talking to someone who’s hundreds of kilometers water while keeping away from parents and siblings.
I am not sorry to say, except a parent is informed, you can hardly detect this. These teenagers appear normal and they give reasons for their wanting to be alone. The African parent also acts civilized and say, “okay, your choice” and leaves them in the room while they have access to and assess weird writings and work of arts.
As an African parent, it is not backwardness to control what your children read and watch, monitor their internet activities. Once I told one of my siblings, “block me on your social media handles and I’m blocking you away from my life”.
These thoughts and solutions cannot be conveyed in a single article. The summary is that, if we totally discard the African approach to child upbringing, the increasing rate of suicide and depression has just started.
Just as John Henrik Clarke puts it,
“There is no European solution to African problems”
Bashir Lucas Samson Lukman – KnowIslam Project (Knowislam.com.ng)