Understanding the terror of suicide and how to help a suicidal person

“Attention seeker” “I’m also in your shoes” “I had it worse but here I am” “I failed several times but nothing happened. I’m still alive” “I have a bad marriage too, so what’s your problem” “You can’t go through with it, weakling!” “You’re just ungrateful for life” “You’re not the only one feeling the bad...

suicide and understanding suicidal intent

“Attention seeker”

“I’m also in your shoes”

“I had it worse but here I am”

“I failed several times but nothing happened. I’m still alive”

“I have a bad marriage too, so what’s your problem”

“You can’t go through with it, weakling!”

“You’re just ungrateful for life”

“You’re not the only one feeling the bad economy”

Each time a person talks about their misfortune, somehow, we instinctively want to acknowledge that pain by relating it to our situation. Sometimes, it’s not done out of spite. Sometimes, it’s out of fear or confusion. I remember a day in my childhood when I crossed a busy road without looking, and almost got hit by a truck. When I got to the other side, my mum landed a big “abara” across my back (good ol’ African smacking). I was so confused as to why she did it. But as I grew, I understood that she didn’t do it to hurt me intentionally. She was genuinely scared, and that was her reaction. The point is, when we’re scared and confused as to how to handle a situation, we react in a way that might hurt the person we’re looking out for. However, that’s not ruling out the fact that some people are just plain insensitive.

I lost a friend to Suicide a year ago, and every day, I wish it didn’t happen. I wish I knew she was battling with her mind. I wish I was available to help. While I understand that all these regrets won’t bring her back, it doesn’t reduce the level of pain I feel each time I remember.

MJ or known as mama J wasn’t depressed or suffering from a mental illness. She got overwhelmed with bills, got frustrated, held on to a horrible marriage because her church encouraged suffering and praying and holding on to a cheating, abusive, and quite useless husband. On a hot Sunday, she came back from church, got a bottle of pesticide and drank the content. Apparently, she had been talking about being tired of everything but each time she said it, people around (my grandmother included) would say “It is well o. Everybody is just tired o. This Nigeria is hard”. When she overdosed on pills in her workplace, her colleagues said she did it to get a raise as life is hard for everyone too. “No need to kill yourself over unpaid rent abeg”. When she died, they posted pictures of her with captions of how sweet she was. Na so e dey happen.

I wish they knew that sometimes, people end their lives out of frustration. I wish they knew that even though everyone has it rough, people don’t have the same level of resilience. It’s just like an alcohol threshold. One time, I got drunk and sat quietly in a corner for a full hour. My roommate on the other hand, danced and practically raped the floor, then danced around with so much energy before throwing up on her bed. What doesn’t kill you might make you stronger but push your friend under.

I’m not sure one can understand suicide if you’ve not really tried to end your own life. As someone who has attempted it more than twice, I’d say it’s a very liberating, scary, and frustrating task. One moment, you’re sure. The next, you’re not so sure anymore. The first time I attempted it, I was so sure I needed to go away. So I overdosed on my Antipsychotics. When I started getting cold feet (My feet was literally getting cold) and my chest felt heavy, I clumsily picked my phone and tried to reach out for help.

A friend told me a while ago “Sometimes, you don’t really want to die. You just don’t want to feel the pain anymore”. When you reach a point a despair, your mind is clouded to the point where you don’t see any other way out. So you don’t hear that “Suicide is not an option”. You don’t hear that “Keep going”. Just like David Foster’s quote about Suicide and hopelessness, nobody understands the terror of jumping like the person who makes the jump. “You’d have to have personally been trapped and felt flames to really understand a terror way beyond falling”

I see a lot of people say “So why did they let the world know before they tried it. They’re simply not ready to die” and other awful comments, so I asked a friend who had updated her Whatsapp status moments before attempting Suicide why she made it known. Her response was “I was so tired. I just wanted people to know I had tried to hold on for so long. I also wanted some assurance. I needed someone to let me know there was something worth living for. Even when I really just wanted to die. It’s very weird but I sort of needed reassurance, and there’s a thrill in knowing that you’d take your own life. It’s the same thrill you feel when you take a dope picture and see the ‘finish upload’ tick before it’s posted on Instagram”

Here’s a quick fact about Suicide. Most people who have suicidal thoughts do not carry them through to their conclusion. Yup. It’s very true, and I can see why some people might shame someone who isn’t successful with an attempted suicide. The shame might make the suicidal person try it again. It’s similar to a do or die affair. You either help the person get better or worsen the whole thing. You see, suicidal thoughts are common, and many people experience them when they are undergoing stress, bad economy, heartbreak, frustration, grief or experiencing depression. So dear internet people, LET PEOPLE SPEAK UP! LET THEM EXPERIENCE THEIR PAIN THEIR OWN WAY BECAUSE YOU COULD NEVER UNDERSTAND BEING IN ANOTHER PERSON’S SHOES. You can relate, but understand? I’m not so sure.

The internet tells people to get help. “If you are suffering from depression or are suicidal, don’t suffer in silence” yet attack them as soon as they speak up. “Nobody is perfect” yet you expect perfection.

I’d like to share few things you can do when someone says they’re suicidal (even when it’s on Twitter and you feel the person is trying to seek attention. This is because you really can’t say when a suicidal ideation is real. And I understand that sometimes people genuinely want to help but don’t know what to do, so here goes:

  • Put religious sentiments aside and try to avoid saying “It is well, you’ll be fine, God forbid, You’re too strong for this, you’ll overcome, you just need money” I know those are the Nigerian first aid help phrases, so avoid them. I can truly tell you they don’t help that much. I’d just roll my eyes as a suicidal person.
  • Get a close friend or family member to reach out to them or stay with them till that feeling passes.
  • Send them sweet and encouraging text messages, tell them they can rant to you, tag @MentallyAwareNG on social media (if it’s an emergency) to reach out to them. Now, if your friend confides in you and it’s not an emergency, please, don’t go posting their names on social media seeking for help. You can reach MANI to help you with what to say or how to get through to your loved one.
  • Be quiet and don’t interject when they’re talking to you. Don’t try to sound smart or woke or religious. They won’t get it or it might just irritate them. Also, don’t leave them alone for long.
  • Try to make them see a counselor or psychologist afterwards. (I had a friend who told me his heart skipped a beat when I told him to speak with a therapist. You can be subtle and say “Would you like to speak with someone who might understand better and is trained to make you feel better. You can always still rant and talk to me. I’ll be here. But it’ll mean so much to me if you do”) Don’t say you understand when you don’t.
  • Avoid saying things like ‘you have so much going on for you’ ‘you have a good job’ or you have money na or ‘others have it worse’ as It makes their pain seem insignificant, and by saying that, you’re either going to make them feel ashamed or angry, and they’ll either stop communicating with you or end up carrying out the suicidal attempt much later.
  • Be kind to everyone. You don’t know what they’re going through. One insensitive word can trigger harmful thoughts. Not everyone looks like what they’re going through. BE KIND TO PEOPLE, ESPECIALLY ON THE INTERNET. IT’S ABSOLUTELY FREE.

In summary, let people speak their truth, be empathic and sensitive to other people’s pain. You may have it worse, you may have failed Jamb 20 and 1 times, you may have lost your parents earlier than Arya stark, you may be in a broken marriage, you may have lost your job just last week, you may be running at a business loss, you may be battling with a mental illness, you may be planning a difficult breakup, you may be on the onset of a relapse, I just want to say I’m sending you love, light, and truckloads of virtual hugs. Share with others too, help them get help, let them speak!



Shola Ajayi

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  1. Avatar Tosin Mo’

    Whoever is reading this, you’re not alone.

  2. Avatar Somkenechukwu Emmanuel Okeke

    Oh Shola, I can’t thank you enough for this well thought out and beautiful write-up. We need to propagate this more. I’ve come to realize the increasing toll of suicide now, most especially among young people. Our children and youth need help.

    Just yesterday I had a discussion with my mum, and I told her that someone committed suicide the day before by emptying two bottles of ‘sniper’ into his bowel, and all efforts to keep him alive failed. And she decided to tow the religious line, saying it was the devil that planted such a thought. That a Christian would fall back to God and so on and so forth… I tried to make her understand that this was not about the devil or God, but it was about the individual in question and how that person could be helped… She didn’t yeild to all the explanations I came up with.. Anyway this is just to buttress the fact that more awareness is needed for mental health issues. I know I’m going to have a rematch with my mum when I’m better equipped with more mental health knowledge.

    God bless you Shola, and it’s my prayer that someday somehow, we’d curb the issues of mental health, most especially in our country Nigeria.

    1. Shola olaoluwa Shola olaoluwa

      Exactly!! So much more needs to be done. We can only keep talking about it, educating people, and encouraging others to speak out

  3. Beautifully written.

  4. Definitely enlightening! Thanks for sharing

  5. May your thoughts continue to be as clear as the day.

    We grew out of empathy into apathy because of everything that surrounds us. Our surrounding chokes us out of almost everything pleasant and most of us have come up with a bulwark that is displayed in our indifference to others so long as we are safe, they should be fine we surmise.

    I hope we can wake up our humaneness and do better by/for our brothers and sisters.

    1. Shola olaoluwa Shola olaoluwa

      Exactly!! Thank you for this. I hope so too. We can only educate people and keep encouraging others to speak out

  6. Beautiful write up.
    Sometimes, all they need is someone that’ll listen to them. Trying to give advice might not help at that moment.

  7. Avatar Olubukola

    Very well written eye opener.
    Thank you Shola.

  8. Avatar Basirah Rodemade

    Wow… this is a brilliant and beautiful write up. Thank you Shola. ❤️ #mentallyawareNG

  9. Avatar Zainab Eze

    Hey Shola, nice article. Thanks for this. I can relate to a lot of things. I wasn’t this into mental health a few years ago, a few years ago, my friend told me of her suicide attempt over a breakup and I laughed it off. I mean the guy was there with her so I figured it was just a ploy for his attention, looking back now while on this article I realize how inhumane I was. I understand better now, I’ve been mentally woke for a few months now thanks to my ex and a few life changing incidents that left me feeling I was trapped in that endless hole from Get out the movie. I know how littlest things can mess with your mind and make you want to give it all up. I’m not suicidal but I understand. I want to help. I feel obligated, please reach out to me if you need extra hands. Again, Thanks for this.

  10. Such a beautiful write up. Am sending my love to everyone battling with their mental health. May you find love and peace that surpasses all understanding.

    I am happy that I survived my suicide attempt four years ago. It wasn’t an easy journey back to sanity. You too can pull through.

    1. Shola olaoluwa Shola olaoluwa

      I’m happy you’re here today. You’re amazing!!!

  11. Remember, silence is better than a bad word. Be empathetic & show concern to your friends. Have a good day.

  12. This was well written but how do you make somebody comtemplating suicide to appreciate the gift of living once more without making their plight seem insignifican?

    1. Shola olaoluwa Shola olaoluwa

      Just be there to listen without interrupting, help out, don’t be a mother hen, show that you genuinely care, and make sure they seek professional help

  13. This is beautiful. Thank you

  14. Avatar Piriye Dima-Dede

    This is such a beautiful, very insightful post! The way a lot of people relate to issues regarding mental health in Nigeria is just appalling. Thank you so much for all that you do!!!

  15. Ahhh, Shola. Hugs.

    1. Shola olaoluwa Shola olaoluwa

      *big hug*

  16. There are so many things you’ve written here that are right and definitely eye-opening. Most especially the one about we being able to relate but not understand. I also want to help people who need help and want to be helped, and this write-up has been very insightful for me. Now i can try to help and listen to people better. Thank you, God bless and may you and Mani continue to help spread awareness.

  17. Thanks for sharing.. I will share and keep sharing this.. I couldn’t agree more with what you said.. I’ve heard people say ‘hurtful’ things, albeit unintentional I believe, but it doesn’t make it less painful. People throwing the religious card at you.. hey!! It doesn’t make you a better believer just cause I have these thoughts.. and the worst bit- I find this maddening, when someone dies, that is when we give them the support, while it was mr/ms judgy when the person was alive.. you would rather keep it with a simple condolence but not these flowery statements that don’t help the deceased in their death. They needed to hear that when alive! Worse bit, it’s all forgotten in a few days or even hours and the cycle repeats itself.

    #kindness cost no one a dime!!
    Your kind word, a smile, your time, might make all the difference.. You might not realise what these small actions might mean, but trust me the receiver will forever be grateful.. what you deem small might literally save a life.

    1. Shola olaoluwa Shola olaoluwa

      Thank you so much. The religious card doesn’t help at all. I know a lot of depressed people who said they felt disconnected from God and couldn’t pray. I wish people understood better, but I guess we have to keep speaking out and encouraging others to talk about their pain.

  18. I loved all the different story line, they definitely touched almost all the scenarios of suicidal attempts. Such an amazing write up Shola, keep being amazing and keep sending love out. Thank you for the love you shared, I have. received mine .

  19. Avatar Damilola Oyedele

    Here in Nigeria, they say it’s oyinbo man’s illness. You can never feel the pain until you have felt that way. People fail to understand that something pushes a depressed person over the edge. And sometimes it’s not that they do not think of those who would feel pain, they want to ease the stress of same people. A friend who was ill for a long time said she wanted to do it to stop the stress her already cash strapped were going through because of her.
    Thank you for this beautiful piece.

  20. Avatar Ajao Toluwalope

    Thank you so much Shola. Every single word is true.

  21. i can say i smile alot and always look happy maybe that’s why people never take me too serious more expecailly when i’m in a difficult situation. I could remember when i had this same feeling at that exact point my friend called me to help lijelike her comment on a particular page to win a giveaway, and i immediately told her what i felt like doing at that point (i really wanted to talk to someone then which is unlike me) the next that came out from her mouth is “please just go and like my post first before you die” lols at that moment i really wanted to die. thank God i didn’t. Thanks for the awareness SHOLA

    1. Shola olaoluwa Shola olaoluwa

      Sometimes, it hurts a lot when people don’t understand or make cruel jokes. I’m so glad you’re alive. You’re amazing. Sending all my love

  22. Thanks for sharing…

  23. Avatar cOnscience

    Beautiful piece. Well done Shola.

  24. Avatar Anonymous

    I totally relate with everything you put up there as I’ve been depressed and I fall into it as fast as anything. I’ve had low points of my life and I’m battling with one right now. I’ve been suicidal several times but I’ve not been able to literally do it cos I’m still blessed with at least someone that cares-I see that but I still wish to leave all the pain behind. Sometimes I wish I don’t wake up so that I won’t have to deal with my unfair life. What I’m going through may look minute or very trivial to other people and people never really understand what you feel. We are just in a messed up country where people think if you are depressed it’s because you don’t have it right with God-total bullshit as you can be hit anytime without notice. I really want to start a fresh life away from my past or my surroundings or anything that reminds me of everything I was.

    1. Shola olaoluwa Shola olaoluwa

      Exactly! Sometimes, it hurts when you don’t have someone around who understands. Sometimes, we need a break from life. Social media, outings, etc. Just take the day off, and do something relaxing. We love you, and we’ll always be here if you’d like to talk

  25. I don’t know what you have been through…but there is hope.

    You are alive..you are winning and you will come out strong.

  26. Avatar Opeyemmy Adebakin

    I try so hard and now it has gotten to the stage of me staying indoor all through,I think I loose it sometimes and then I later calm myself down,sometimes I don’t sleep for a week,sometimes I feel I’m running mad,sometimes I just want to die and everything I’ve tried isn’t working and lastly…pretending to be fine is killing me,this is the first time I’m actually saying how I feel in three years😭😭😭😭

  27. Listen Opeyem Adebakin, your feelings are valid. What you feel is real. I feel same too.

    Finally, my mum got to know about my struggles today. Some hours ago.

    It wasn’t a pleasant conversation but at a point, I had to let her know my struggles. She doesn’t understand why I get depressed. She thinks it’s a spiritual attack. She prayed for me but in the end, it’s the courage of saying it out that matters. The peace I get for not hiding my struggles. The fact that I know I can now safely tell her I am not feeling okay and she’ll understand and will give me reasons to hang on.

    Opeyemi, please find someone you can turn to when this feeling comes. Someone that won’t judge you. Someone that will listen when you’re overwhelmed for NO REASON.

    I’ve written suicide notes before on medium. I’ve written about dying several times too. I struggle with suicide. I find it hard to sleep. It’s a constant struggle.

    Opeyemi, I personally feel like I’m not made for this planet. I find it hard to be calm with all this madness of “get a job”, “find a wife”, “get kids”, “buy a house”, “grow up”, “be an entrepreneur”, “Davido is 12 years old and he’s rich”, “create wealth” etc.

    I know I sound crazy but after trying to figure out why I constantly feel depressed, I realised it could be the normal activities of this planet that’s overwhelming me. It sound stupid. Yeah I know.

    Right now, I’m confused as to the reason why I suddenly feel I can only feel peace when I die.

    It’s killing me! The way everyone wants you to man up is enough to make one wanna die. I find it hard to sleep. I have grown to have insomnia (which I am presently working on and getting a positive result).

    I go to work thrice a week while I pretend like I’m fine. It’s killing me. but I’m still here right?

    Why? Because I have one or two people I talk to (even before my mum finally got to know about my struggles today).

    I know what I’m saying might make no sense but still, please find a friend you can Confide in. Promise yourself you’ll reach him/her when the feeling shows up. It’s what I do. It helps – as long as I am sane enough to keep the promise.

    Listen, I can be a friend if you don’t mind. Or find someone you know you’ll be convenient with and share your struggles with him/her. Speaking it out is a large part of healing. In fact, that’s where the healing starts from.

    I know I don’t wanna die – I wish to know what is in stock for me for the future. I am sure I don’t wanna be selfish and commit suicide while I allow my family be in dilemma but when the feeling comes, death seem the only way to find peace.

    You can take anxiety/depression mediations too. You can see a Therapist too. But having a friend to talk to when the feeling comes is of utmost importance.

    I hope my rantings made little sense. And I hope we hang on together even amidst the madness and overwhelming situation in this planet.

    My love goes out to you. My heart goes out to you too. Please, let’s stay alive together 😣.

    Meanwhile This Article is so spot on! And I can guess it’s because the writer is not only intelligent but he/she knows what it means to be suicidal.

    Thanks for taking the time to write this informative piece.

    1. Shola olaoluwa Shola olaoluwa

      So glad you were able to discuss with your mom about your struggles. You’re super brave, and we’re so proud of you.

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