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SUICIDAL IDEATION AMONG SECONDARY STUDENTS
Background to the Study
Every society is dynamic and has its peculiar problems. However, when these problems, overwhelm the young ones who have no coping ability, they may start thinking of risky behaviour of suicide or attempt suicide. Suicide among teens and young adults is a complex and distressing problem (Tellioglu, 2006). To contemplate suicide at any age is awful. When it involves a teenager who has a life full of potentials ahead of him, it is almost too awful (Behning, 2006).
In recent years the rate of suicide among adolescents has risen to alarming proportions (Goldman, 1988). Worldwide, suicide is among the top five causes of mortality in the 15 to 19 years age group in many countries, suicide ranks first as a cause of death among both boys and girls in this age group (World Health Organization (WHO), 2000). In persons between the ages of 15-34years, it is the third leading cause of death (Vijayokumar, Nagaraji, & John, 2004). However, incidence and pattern of suicide varies from country to country depending on social, cultural, and religious values (Saeed, Bashir, Khan, Igbal, Rajo, & Rehman, 2002). It is considered a sin or immoral act in many religions and a crime to help someone commit suicide in some countries. On the other hand, some culture have view it as an honorable way to exit certain shameful or hopelessness situations (Columbia University Press, 2003).
Suicide is the act of taking one’s life voluntarily and intentionally (Saeed, Bashir, Khan, Igbal, Rajo, and Rehman, 2002). Suicide is a self-execution, an act in which one deliberately and intentionally kills himself, is gradually seen as extreme and complex behaviour, involving all aspects of human experience, the biological, psychological, social, and environmental aspect of life (Moscicki, 1994). It is the act of deliberately taking one’s life. Suicidal behaviour is any action with potentially life threatening consequences, such as taking a drug overdose (Taylor, 2003).
Suicide attempts or completed suicide have bearing in suicidal thoughts or ideas. When a person has ideas or thoughts about suicide, it is called suicide ideation. Ideation is the collective representation of thoughts and ideas, recalled from memory, or projected into the future, singly or combined (Segen, 2002). Ideation is also viewed as knowledge or understanding of something without being certain about it, belief or opinion, a purpose or reason for doing something (Procter, 1995). According to Wordnet (2007), ideation is the process of forming and relating ideas. When these ideas are related to suicide, it is termed suicide ideation.
A host of life events, personal and social variables must be involved when people have thoughts about suicide and when they actually make attempts. Such an extreme and unusual occurrence reflects the combined effect of these variables, which are difficult to study because of their complexity (Reich, Newsom, & Zautra, 1996). However suicidal ideation is maladaptive and realistic precursor in many cases of suicide attempt (Hawton, 1986).
Suicide ideation is the capacity for or the act of forming or entertaining ideas that are suicidal in nature (Wikipedia, 2007). According to National Centre for Health Statistics (2007), suicidal ideation is having thoughts of suicide or thinking of taking action to end one’s life. Suicidal ideation includes all thoughts of suicides, both when thoughts include a plan to commit suicide and when they do not include a plan. This means that suicidal ideation will include the wish or the plan to commit suicide.
Suicidal ideation, given its specificity to cognitions, is consistent with a cognitive behavioral focus (Kendal & Hollon, 1981), and may be viewed as a domain of self-statements. It extends from vague wishes that do not exist (extremely mild ideation) to thoughts quite specific to the act of suicide such as thinking about how and when one will kill himself or herself.
Suicidal ideation is a common medical term for the mere thoughts about and of plans of committing suicide, not the actual following through or act itself. People who undergo suicide ideation do not commit suicide. The range of suicidal ideation varies greatly from fleeting, detailed planning, role-playing, and half-hearted attempt. Fleeting as applied to suicide ideation refers to someone having an idea about intention to commit suicide, but this idea soon fades away and starts again. Planning refers to the process of outlining the activities to be carried out in a purposive manner including the methods to be used in committing suicide. Role-playing is attempting or acting out the activities outlined under planning to explore the possibility of how it will work. Finally, half-hearted attempt is concerned with field testing or trying the plan of committing suicide but not with the actual intention to commit the action (suicide) (Wikipedia, 2007).
Suicide ideation can be active and this involves a current desire and plan to die. Suicidal ideation can be passive, involving a desire to die but without a plan to bring about one’s death (Shields & Barton, 2005). Suicidal ideation is often the precursor of later and more serious, suicide related behaviour (Konick & Gutierrez, 2005). Wikipedia, (2007) indicated that, regardless of what percentage of people with suicidal ideation that commit suicide, it is still risk factor for suicide. Andrews and Lewinsohn, (1992), Dubow, Kausch, Blum, Reed, and Bush (1989), explained that many adolescent suicide attempters express high levels of suicide ideation, however, many suicide ideations never attempt suicide. Rohde, Seeley, and Mace (1997), further indicated more importantly that adolescents who make one suicide attempt have an elevated risk for future attempts and completed suicide.
Suicidal ideation, which includes thinking about the reasons for and ways of killing oneself, and suicide attempts are related to variety of life events in childhood and adolescence. For instance, confusion and frustration in coming to terms with gender identity, gender role, as well as sexual orientation may lead to a feeling of depression and suicidal ideation (Frisch & Frisch, 1998). This view is also supported by (Allan, Kashani, Dahlmeier, Taghizadeh, & Reid, 1997), that there appears to be a dramatic rise in suicidal behaviour as children make the critical transition from childhood to adolescence and young adult. Suicidal thoughts become abnormal in children and adolescents when the realization of those thoughts seems to be the only way out of their difficulties. There is then a serious risk of attempted suicide or suicide (WHO, 2000).
Many adolescents who are suicidal are also depressed or in a state of extreme demoralization as in the case with adults (Beck, Kovacs, & Weissman, 1975; Beck, Steer, Kovacs, & Garrison, 1985). Suicidal adolescents often feel an overwhelming sense of hopelessness (Garfinkel, Froese, & Hood, 1982; Robbins & Alessi, 1985). However, hopelessness appears to be experienced by many adolescents, not just those who think about or attempt suicide (Spirito, Slark, Fristad, Hart, & Owens-Stively, in press). Adolescents frequently find themselves under tremendous stress. Problems most often occur when stressors at home, school, and with peers occur within a context of minimal social and emotional support. These problems are further exacerbated when there is lack of coping strategies or when behavioral deficit or dysfunction exists.
For the purpose of this study, suicidal ideation refers to an individual who has thoughts to die, which involves the process of fantasizing, planning and motivation to commit suicide.
Research has shown that adolescents are at greatest risk when they are experiencing a major negative life event, having a lot of “hassles” and having little social support (Reynolds & Waltz, 1986). Other investigators have also noted the relationship between high life stress and suicidal ideation and behavior in young adults (Schotte &Clum, 1982) and adolescents (Smith & Crawford, 1986).
Apart from the home, school, and peers contributing to suicide behaviours, suicidal behaviour tends to differ on the basis of gender, age, and grade or class and location. Factors of gender have been suspected to be associated with suicide ideation, and Frisch & Frisch (1998), maintained that there are significant gender differences in rates of adolescents suicide, while more females admit having suicidal ideation and more attempts at suicide; more males actually succeed in completing suicide. These differences have been found to be related to gender feelings of loneliness and experiences of substance abuse in males than female adolescents.
Many adolescents including secondary school students are involved in chronic drug use, which leads to drug abuse and addiction. For example, marijuana is a drug commonly used in Nigeria since after the civil war. This substance has been linked with acute psycho toxic reactions, withdrawal symptoms like restlessness, anxiety, sweating, and hyperactivity. Adolescents who are found under these conditions may think of committing suicide. The high incidence of armed robbery, assassinations and other crimes are often as a result of drug abuse. When some of these adolescents commit some of these crimes, some of their accomplices are caught, those who escape may think of committing suicide while, others commit suicide. The society frowns at adolescents’ misbehavior, rebellion, riots and other crimes. When they are napped in these vices, there is a tendency for them to think of taking their lives to escape from the shame.
Mohr (2003) stated that it is often hard for parents and teachers to detect the warning signs of suicidal behaviour. He documented the signs of suicide to include statements such as “I won’t be around for you to yell at” or “you won’t have to worry about me much longer” (p.673). Lack of emotional responsiveness, social withdrawal, inability to enjoy previously enjoyed activities, drug or alcohol abuse, threat making, and giving away of possessions and certain cheerfulness after being depressed, may not be common to adolescents but some may be present, for example, lack of emotional responsiveness, social withdrawal and drug misuse or abuse.
Attempted or completed suicide may to a large extent be preceded by suicidal ideation. These situations may not always be uncommon with adolescents as those in the present study. Situations which may give rise to suicidal thoughts in Nigeria abound. According to WHO (2007), lack of reliable information at local/regional/national levels significantly undermines the problem of suicidal ideation or attempted suicide. In the case of suicides, considerable under reporting and misclassification occurs in data gathering. Hospital information systems do not include suicides and these are often listed under “injuries and accidents” or occasionally under “mental health problems”. Adolescents’ suicidal ideation or behaviour is widely deemed to be under reported, because many deaths of this type are inaccurately classified as unintentional or accidental (WHO, 2000).
WHO (2000) indicated that in some countries there is an alarming increase in suicide among children aged less than 15, as well as in the 15-19 year age group. Therefore, the identification of adolescents’ severity of suicide ideation serves as a variable proactive approach for the identification of youth at risk of suicide. This explains why this study is pertinent especially in Taraba State.
Investigations have continued to focus on suicidal ideation as an important aspect of suicidal behaviour in adolescents and young adults. Schotte and Clum (1982) noted the importance of research on suicidal ideation “especially since there is demonstrated relationship between the frequency of suicidal ideation and the likelihood of suicide attempting” (p.690). Furthermore, they asserted that “with adult attempters, suicidal ideation and depression explained the greatest proportion of the variance in adolescent suicide behaviour; the more serious the suicidal ideation, the more likely was the adolescent to have attempted suicide” (p.491).
In Taraba State, for instance, four cases of adult suicide were recorded in the last 4 years (Taraba State Police Command, 2007). No record of adolescent case of suicide was reported following investigation with the Federal Medical Centre (FMC) of the State, the State Police Command and the State Social Welfare Office. In addition, to the knowledge of the researcher, no study has been carried out to identify adolescents with suicidal ideation who may be at risk of suicide attempts or complete suicide, in Jalingo Local Government Area of Taraba State. This reason makes the study necessary.
Most families in Jalingo, Taraba state are observed to be large families, with high rate of unemployment, and with schools under equipped and under staff, and with HIV/AIDS affecting many families, which have resulted to several children, with attended family poverty, low parental and school monitoring of the children. Consequently, in the course of adolescent development, they are likely to encounter emotional disturbance, frustration, anxiety, depression and hopelessness. In this situation, the adolescents who are in the study area may get involved in antisocial vices like substance use, robbery, prostitution, and other antisocial crimes. These aforementioned personality problems will subject the adolescent student to suicidal ideation.
The study therefore is intended to find out whether suicidal ideation tendencies exist amongst secondary school students in Jalingo Local Government Area of Taraba State. The study will help in planning intervention and prevention programme for secondary school students identified with suicidal ideation. Certain factors such as parent’s occupation, gender, location, religious affiliation, tribe, and class grade have been implicated to suicide behaviours including suicidal ideation. Nouins, Beals, Roberts, and Manson (1999), conducted a study on factors associated with suicidal ideation, the study however, showed that three tribes (South West, North Plains, and Pueblo Youths) of American Indians did not differ in terms of age and gender.
Statement of the Problem
In the course of development, the adolescence is volatile and characterized by role change. Communication is problematic; they often feel very isolated (Behning, 2006). James (2005) had indicated that some 7-14 per cent adolescents will self-harm themselves at some time in their life and 20-45 per cent of older adolescents are reported having had suicidal thoughts at some time.
Adolescence is the period of psychological, social, and physical transition between childhood and adulthood. Adolescence is the stage of psychological breakthrough in a person’s life when the cognitive development is rapid and the thoughts, ideas, and concepts developed at this period of life greatly influence the individual’s life in future and play a major role in character formation. In the course of character formation, adolescents could develop problems such as emotional distress, frustration, anxiety, depression, and hopelessness. As Warren, Smith, and Tyler (1983), puts it, adolescents and young adults often experience stress, confusion, and depression from situations occurring in their families, schools, and communities. Such feelings can overwhelm young people thus leading them to think or consider possible solutions, including suicidal thoughts or suicide.
The groups under study are secondary school adolescents in Jalingo Local Government Area who are also undergoing developmental and social changes. In the course of these changes, any unsatisfactory change will cause some of them to experience such things as stress, confusion, and depression, which can predispose them into antisocial vices like drug abuse or addiction, prostitution, and crimes like robbery. Consequently, some of them may start thinking of suicide or even attempting suicide. This lends support to (Frisch & Frisch, 1998), who indicated that suicidal ideation, and suicide attempts are related to variety of life events in childhood and adolescence. For instance, confusion and frustration in coming to terms with gender identity, gender role, and sexual orientation may lead to feelings of depression and suicidal ideation. Those experiencing suicidal ideation or thoughts about fatally harming one’s self, may struggle to be heard or understood and a person feeling suicidal may also wish to avoid being seen as making suicide threats. This may lead to a situation where a person attempts or commits suicide without telling friends or family members of how they felt (Columbia University Press, 2003). This situation may not be different among secondary school students in Jalingo Local Government Area of Taraba State.
Though, Taraba State has no official record or any research study identifying adolescents with suicidal ideation, this problem should not be ignored, because some of these adolescents may be faced with factors that precipitate suicidal ideation. What will then be the outcome of such adolescents, who will in the future be leaders of tomorrow? This study is therefore necessary to identify such school adolescents who may be experiencing suicidal ideation and thus provide a way of preventing these thoughts, and subsequently preventing suicide attempts (self-harm) or suicide among these young generation.
Purpose of the Study
The purpose of the study is to determine the suicidal ideation among secondary school students in Jalingo Local Government Area (LGA) of Taraba State. Specifically, the study is find out the;
- extent of students’ intention or wish to commit suicide;
- extent of students’’ suicide plans;
- extent of students’ use of suicide as retribution to others;
- extents of students’ use of suicide as way of making others realize their worth;
- extent of students’ use of suicide because they think no one cared if he or she lived or died;
- extent of students’ use of suicide as a way of solving problems;
- difference in the suicidal ideation among various classes; (SS1, SS2, SS3)
- difference in the suicidal ideation of male and female students;
- difference in the suicidal ideation of urban and rural students.
- difference in suicidal ideation according to age.
- difference in the suicidal ideation according to religious affiliation
- relationship between students’ life situation/ events and the various demographic
- relationship between the various dimensions of suicidal ideation and the various
- What is the extent of students’ intention or wish to commit suicide?
- What is the extent of students’ suicidal ideation plans?
- What is the extent of students’ use of suicide as retribution to others?
- What is the extent of students’ use of suicide as a way of making others realize their worth?
- What is the students’ extent of thought that no one cared if he or she lived or died?
- What is the extent of students’ use of suicide as a way of solving problem?
- What is the difference in the extent of suicidal ideation among SS 1, SS 2, and SS 3?
- What is the difference in the extent of suicidal ideation of male and female students?
- What is the difference in the extent of suicidal ideation between urban and rural students?
- What is the difference in the extent of suicidal ideation according to age?
- What is the difference on the extent of suicidal ideation according to religious affiliation?
- What is the relationship between life situation/ events and the various demographic factors?
- What is the relationship between the various dimensions of suicidal ideation and the various demographic factors?
The following hypotheses were postulated and to be tested at .05 level of significance;
- There is no significant difference in the extent of suicidal ideation of male and female students.
- There is no significant difference in the extent of suicidal ideation of urban and rural students.
- There is no significant difference in the extent of suicidal ideation among students in senior secondary one (SS1), senior secondary two (SS2), and senior secondary three (SS3).
- There is no significant difference in the suicidal ideation of students according to religious affiliations.
- There is no significant difference in the extent of suicidal ideation of students according to age.
Significance of the Study
The results of student’s suicidal intention or wish to commit suicide will reveal students who may have the intention to commit suicide. The results of the study may be useful to health educators, counsellors, health administrators, school administrators, and parents in planning strategies/intervention programme for the students to curb their wishes. It will help counsellors and parents in guiding or advising the students on how to direct the energies of students in more rewarding activities instead of taking risk behaviors. The data that is generated on suicide plan by students will assist them to redirect students’ activities into those ones that help them realize their fullest potentials in academic, social, and physical endeavours instead of thinking of negative ways of ending their lives.
The results of the study regarding the extent to which students plan to using suicide as a way of making others realize their worth will help health educators, school administrators, counsellors, and parents to advise students to know that there are other positive ways of making others realize their worth. Such means include excelling in academics, sports, music, and arts. Furthermore students will be made to realize that these are positive and better ways of making people realize their importance rather than thinking suicidal. Addition data generated from this study, will help the school personnel to mount activities aimed at enlightening the students that using suicide as a punishment to others is morally and religiously wrong and should be advised emphasizing that it is better to discuss matters over with school personnel and parents instead of contemplating taking life. Another finding that will be generated on the extent of students’ thoughts that no one cared if they lived or died, will be useful and helpful to school personnel and parents to realize that they should pay particular attention to the students’ interests and concerns about their life events, because ignoring or showing no interest on them would push them into actions capable of causing themselves self-harm which could turn out to cause shame to the school and family.
The finding that generated regarding the students use of suicide as a means of solving problems was to a very low extent. This finding will help health educators, school administrators, and parents to continue to satisfy student’s physical, social, emotional needs and strive to ensure that the various environments and the climate under which they study and handle their problems is not only justified but adequate. This will positively reinforce and motivate them to adopt healthy lifestyles.
The study generated data on suicidal ideation of female and male students was very low extent. Counselors encourage students not to think of negative ways of living their lives. Seminars and workshops should be organized to give the students correct information on life events in order to encourage them to prevent these negative life events.
The results that were generated concerning suicidal ideation of rural and urban students showed that suicidal ideation of students was very low extent. The health educators and school administrators will be better armed to use this result to continue to encourage both urban and rural students to always take life events in a purposeful and constructive manner. The finding generated regarding suicidal ideation according to age will be useful to health educators and school administrators too. The health educators will be better armed to conduct discussions with the age bracket that demonstrate a higher extent of suicidal ideation in order to reduce the incidence and prevalence of suicidal ideation among students.
Scope of the Study
The study will be delimited to public and private secondary schools students in Jalingo Local Government Area of Taraba State. Suicidal ideation will include morbid ideas, suicide plans, suicide as retribution, suicide as a means of recognition, suicide thoughts that no one cares if one lived or dies and suicide as a way of solving problems. The study examined such variables as location, gender, and age o