Contrary to speculations by most Nigerians that Dr Allwell Orji jumped into Lagoon on March 19 based on strange call he received shortly before he committed suicide, two medical practitioners have revealed the real reason the deceased killed himself.
In the article sent to VON, the doctors, Mustapha MD and Ajayi O.O expressed sadness over Dr Allwell’s death, adding that his action could have been triggered by depression.
They said: “No one knows exactly why Dr Allwell Orji died. In what seemed like an apparent suicide, the 35-year old MEDILAG graduate asked his driver to pullover at the non-existent layby on the Third Mainland Bridge.
One can imagine what went through the driver’s mind. “Perhaps he recognised that urgency, that call of nature, that pressing need to void—those familiar with social media will remember memes of a male Caucasian voiding into the lagoon at the Third Mainland Bridge sometimes ago. “Perhaps this is what the driver had imagined of the bespectacled doctor.
Little did he know that this mild traffic infraction he committed will lead up to something more sinister, perhaps the most sensational crime against self in recent times.
“Some may ask: is it really a crime? Is it a crime to desperately and violently seek to end one’s life? Yes, it is, in Nigeria apparently.
Section 38 of the Nigerian Criminal Code states that it is a misdemeanor punishable with imprisonment for one year for any person to attempt to commit suicide.
At least one thing is clear about this Nigerian law: it punishes failed suicidal attempts.
“The Nigerian space following the events of March 19 has been toxic with opinions, ideas and debates.
There are those who argue that it is incredibly ‘unNigerian’ to take one’s life. “Some opine that Dr Orji’s last phone conversation was from a certain diabolical number which instructed him to jump.
Even more frightening is that such baseless conjectures are circulated by educated people who should be able to separate fact from urban myth.
Alas, this is not so. The grief-stricken family is subjected to scrutiny and comments; mass media, social media and political pundits won’t let them grieve in peace.
“Even his hippocratic brethren have their own stories too. There are classmates who remember a vibrant but sickly man who braved the throes of medical training in spite of his numerous medical challenges.
“They remember his calm predisposition to the bad cards life dealt him but no one talks about the possibilities of a mental disorder.
They said that one of the commonest mental disorders with significant morbidity and widespread notoriety is depression.
The maintain that: “Mental disorder remains that laundry that no one spreads in the sun.
It is estimated that one in four individuals globally would go through a mental health challenge in their life-time. One of the commonest mental disorders with significant morbidity and widespread notoriety is depression.
“Depression is not profound sadness. It is not just an inability to cope with life experiences. It is not caused by a character or personality flaw. It is not a moral failing, neither is it a spiritual affliction. It is an illness, a mental illness, a mental illness that may end in mortality—Suicide.
“Suicide is one of the leading causes of death globally. More than four-fifths of all suicides can be attributed to mental illness; depression having a large proportion of this staggering statistic.
Still in the attitude of staggering statistics, there are less than five hundred practicing psychiatrists within Nigeria, which has a population of more than one hundred and eighty million people.
“This gives a ratio of 1 psychiatrist to about 360,000 citizens. This is mildly better than our neighbour, Chad, which has just one psychiatrist to serve their entire nation.
“In 2013, Ghana passed one of the most modern and effective mental health legislation in the world.
This document, by ensuring free treatment of essential mental health conditions, amongst other things, revolutionized mental health care and delivery in this West Africa nation often compared with Nigeria.
“Nigeria, on the other hand, is yet to pass a Mental Health Bill. The proposed Mental Health Bill has been negotiating the labyrinthine corridors of power, bouncing back and forth between the Legislative and the Executive arms of the Nigerian Government since 2008.
In the meantime, Nigerians make do with an antiquated law, the Lunacy Ordinance, passed in 1916.
‘”It may interest you to note that the word ‘Lunatic’ has not only become politically incorrect but also uncharitable.
The Lunacy Ordinance, for starters, does not even recognize the title ‘psychiatrist’. “This outdated document provides outmoded procedures, terminologies and processes which, sadly, most States in Nigeria must use because this is the ONLY legislative framework in mental health practice that our country recognizes.
“The panoramic picture of mental health in Nigeria is not only gloomy, it is dire. In the middle of this conundrum, doctors, old and young, specialists and generalists, surgeons and physicians, are negotiating their way out of the country’s borders.
“Only last week, five hundred doctors sat for professional exams to practice in the UK. The critical mass of practicing doctors in Nigeria is threatened not only by the prospect of economic migration but by anomie.
“This anomie of an inefficient and regressing health system, of overworked and underappreciated health workers, of archaic laws and unmet needs, of incessant strikes and endless strife, all these contributed to the final fatalistic act of Dr Allwell Orji.