The Suicide Research and Prevention Initiative, an NGO, has launched a toll-free hotline through which people with mental health challenges can contact counsellors or therapists for advice and help.
The Training Coordinator of SURPIN, Ms Titilayo Tade, disclosed this at a news conference in Lagos on Thursday.
She said that the motive was to prevent suicide tendencies and to create an avenue where people with such challenges could speak out and seek help.
Tade explained that the newly launched hotline – 0800 078 7746 – was not to replace the previous fee-paying lines, adding that “the old English and Hausa speaking lines – 09034400009 and 08142241007 are still valid.’’
She said the major complaint of people in the past was usually the charges/fees paid for placing a phone call to SURPIN, saying that the toll-free hotline would provide relief to people with a financial burden.
According to her, the free line will not only help to prevent and reduce suicide cases in the country but also increase access to mental health services, as SURPIN has offices in all states of the federation.
She added that “with the free line, people can easily call in respect of the challenges they are facing at any point and we will give them the necessary counselling or even direct them to an appropriate mental health facility for medical attention.
“In the past, we’ve had calls concerning people on the verge of committing suicide or even people that drink substances to terminate their lives.
But through the calls, SURPIN came in and rescued them.’’
The SURPIN training coordinator identified stress and depression as factors that could lead to suicide if not properly managed.
According to her, suicide and other outcomes of mental ill-health are on the increase in Nigeria.
“We are dealing with a lot of issues in the country; businesses are falling, things are expensive, cash is hard to come by and the basic amenities are lacking, affecting the mental health of many.
“Problems can make people vulnerable to suicide, aggression, violence, and other anti-social behaviours.
“The statistics may not be there, but by observation, people are bottling up their emotions and challenges, instead of speaking out.
“There is a need for people to speak out; let us not be intimidated to bottle up our anxieties, challenges, and frustrations; considering suicide should never be an option for life challenges of any sort.
“We should learn to share our worries, speak out and seek help because a problem shared is half-solved,’’ she said.
Tade emphasised that bottling up emotions and challenges were the highest tendencies that could lead to suicide.
She said that the first line for managing life challenges or depression was counselling and therapy, adding that it could be from family members, friends, religious leaders, and medical experts.
She warned that an individual should not wait until he or she was battered, violated, injured, or close to committing suicide, before seeking help.