Depression and Self- Mutilation in Nigeria

Life is not a bed of roses and the truth is that we have to learn to examine the thorns of life, if not depression can set in and that, baby okus is the beginning of a whole new journey.
As we know, depression can manifest itself in different way, as murder, negativity and emotional abuse of others, binge eating, drug abuse, alcoholism, suicide and a lot other forms. Today, we will be talking “cutting” also know as  Non-Suicidal Self-Injury.
What is cutting?
If you are reading this article, are are most likely interested in finding out about teenage cutting, and more importantly, ‘why do people cut themselves’? Cutting is a destructive habit that involves self-injury and self-harm. People who cut often use sharp objects such as needles, knives or razor blades to cut or scratch their skin to the point of bleeding. People most commonly cut in body parts that can easily be hidden, such as the inner wrist and the thigh, but the inner palm, stomach, legs are also common areas. You will notice that people who cut are most likely to be seen in long-sleeved shirts or tops and full length pants, even though the weather may be hot. They do this to hide their wounds, or scars that are formed when their wounds heal. You will also find that teenage cutting is quite common in today’s world. You might be wondering, ‘Why would anyone want to harm themselves?’ and ‘Why do people cut themselves, anyway?” Cutting is a serious mental disorder and is often done impulsively without forethought. After cutting, people often feel ashamed and wish they had not done it in the first place. However, as an addiction, people find themselves going back to cutting. This is especially true for teenage cutting.
Why is cutting addictive?

Once people start cutting, they find that they cannot stop. They may say to themselves, “This is the last time, and then I won’t do it again,” or “I can always stop when I want to,” or “I have control over this, I can stop whenever I want to.” This is how teenage cutting becomes addictive. The person believes they have the control and can stop when they want to, but this is seldom the case.Starting to cut and feeling a strong urge to do it over and over again is compulsive behaviour. It is habit forming and is fatal. Just like any other addiction, people who cut start associating the act of cutting with the temporary relief that they get.To make it clearer, think of people who are binge eaters. They know that compulsive overeating is bad for them – but over time, their minds begin to associate binge eating and the relief it provides them as a way to escape intense emotions or disturbing memories.Similarly, the minds of those who cut start making a connection between cutting and their childhood abuse to the temporary relief that cutting brings as a means of escape and false deliverance. This is one of the reasons that answers your question, “Why do people cut themselves?”But cutting only provides temporary relief for less than 5 minutes. Once that numbness from cutting elapses, you immediately look down and see what you have done, only to find yourself in disappointment, disgust, more pain and shame.
What group is more likely to cut?Many people who cut themselves are in their preteen to teen stages; but many carry this habit to adulthood as well. It has also been found that girls are more likely than boys to cut themselves. Teenage cutting is a growing problem in society today thanks to increasing divorces, disfunctional families and negative messages bombarded through media. 

Why do people cut themselves?

Now you may be wondering why anyone would ever want to injure themselves and cause pain to themselves. Indeed it may seem unfathomable that anyone would deliberately pick up a sharp object to cause harm to themselves. Many people who cut themselves do this as a way of coping with situations in their life that they think are too stressful or painful to bear. Of course, cutting is not the best way to cope with life’s troubles at all. Cutting does not help solve the problem at hand – if anything, cutting only adds on to the problems one already has.When I was in high school, I had a friend who used to cut himself. He would mostly use needles, sometimes fountain pens to sharply indent his skin to the point where he forms deep cuts that left behind pink scars. On the outside, he seemed like a very social, happy and outgoing person but when he went back home, he would occasionally cut himself. It was his way of coping with all the pressure that was on him from his family, who expected him to get straight A’s and his friends, who expected him to constantly be ‘cool’ and ‘in with the gang’. Obviously, cutting himself was not the right thing to do, but as a young teen, that was something he did that made him feel better – but only temporarily.
People who cut just feel scared or lonely and showing that you care about them and love them can help them by leaps and bounds.
Reasons Why People May Cut
So, why do people cut themselves? There are various reasons why people cut themselves. Below are some of the reasons;

  1. Some people cut to get ‘relief’ from pent up feelings. Cutting gives them a false sense of respite from their mental stress or emotional problems.
  2. Cutting may give them a platform to express intense feelings such as depression, rejection, anger, betrayal or confusion.
  3. Curiousity. There are some people who are led to cutting simply by curiousity. Ever heard the saying “Curiousity killed the cat”? Well, as much as curiousity can be a good thing, in this case, it does not lead to any benefit at all. At first, they may try out cutting as a harmless innocent thing, but this is addictive and compulsion to cut may cause life-threatening situations. As teens are in a stage of exploring and are more curious in that stage of life, they are more likely to indulge in dangerous habits such as smoking, drinking and self-injury through cutting.
  4. Emotional abuse or physical abuse may cause some people to close off the outside world and become reclusive. In this state, they may resort to cutting.
  5. Adding on to the above, many victims of emotional and physical abuse often feel ‘unclean’ and ‘disgusted’ with themselves that they cut themselves as a way of punishing themselves. Most such victims feel that it was their fault that some one physically or mentally abused them and so they punish themselves for their ‘crime’ by cutting or self-injuring themselves.
  6. Self-hatred. Many people who cut themselves do not appreciate themselves or their bodies. They find themselves to be ‘ugly’ or ‘fat’, and in a desperate situation, they harm themselves by cutting, to get a quick fix for their problem. If they learn to love themselves, they wouldn’t dream of deliberately harming themselves.
  7. Too much pressure or stress can cause teenagers to resort to cutting. You would be surprised to know that many teens who cut themselves are actually honor students.
How can you help someone who cuts themselves?
Stopping the habit of cutting is not an easy thing for someone who has already begun cutting.

  1. Encourage them to indulge in a productive and healthy hobby. Inform the person that there are other ways to get rid of emotional burdens and societal pressures. Dealing with emotional pain and stress can be daunting but cutting is not the solution. Help them find healthier ways of occupying themselves such as photography or scrapbooking, which is not only fun but is also a great way to express oneself.
  2. We care about you. Show them that there are people who care for them. If one of your friends is cutting, show them how much you care for them and how much you wouldn’t want them to get hurt or lose them. They may realize that there are so many people who care for them after all, and out of compassion for all those who love them, they may leave cutting.
  3. Get them to exercise. Helps strengthen the immune system and boost up good hormones in the body such as seratonin, which help you feel content and relaxed. Exercise is not only a way to keep busy and occupy yourself, but is also a great way to tone up, get fit and improve general well being. Most especially for teenagers, exercise does not have to mean hitting the gym and walking on the treadmill for an hour – you can make ‘exercise’ fun by engaging in any sports activity such as swimming, tennis, volleyball or soccer.
  4. Get them to join a club. Find out what they like. For example, do they like wildlife? If they do, they can join a wildlife club. Do they like crafts? Get them to join a crafts club. Joining a club can enable them to be surrounded by like-minded people and this can make them feel more secure and comforted. Many teens who feel awkward or like the odd one out at high school can find solace in the like-minded people that they may meet in these clubs.
  5. Charity. Serving the community and taking the time to help out needy people by helping them build houses etc can do wonders for anyone. When I was in high school, we had a week of community service where we joined a local charity organisation to help a poor community build permanent structures to dwell in. Just helping to lay a few bricks and interacting with the people, was a life-changing experience. It helps you to see that there are people out there who are less fortunate than you. It helps you become more grateful and more appreciative of your life.
  6. Talk about it. Many teens cut in secret and may be very afraid to tell an adult about their cutting. Improving your relationship with your child can help them be more relaxed and friendly with you such that they can feel free to share with you. Talking about problems is a good starting step to get your child/friend to stop cutting. ‘Problem shared is problem solved.’ However, please ensure that you don’t came across as too domineering or pushy, else you make the person become even more reclusive and uncorporative.
  7. Councelling. Many people who are cutting are doing so because of deeper and more complex issues such as childhood abuse or physical torment. Getting them to see a professional therapist can help them to receive qualified treatment and healing to solve the root cause, such that they can stop cutting.
  8. Writing. Writing is a great therapeutic tool that can help relieve tension and pain. Encourage your child/ friend who is cutting to keep a diary to record their observations and thoughts during the day. Poetry is also a great means of expressing ones creativity or locked up emotions, and watching your poem take shape is a rewarding and fulfilling experience, rather than cutting and harming yourself.
  9. Join a support group. Joining a support group can help a cutter feel that they are not alone. In a support group, they can share their personal stories and get to hear the stories of other such people. This can help them gain strength and confidence to stop cutting. Online support groups are very convinient and also provide privacy. Here are 3 helpful online support groups; a) Experience Project: I can’t stop cutting; b) Support – Cutting; c) Daily – Self Injury.
  10. Learn to Love yourself. If you want to help your friend or child who is cutting, one important thing to do is to get them to love themselves unconditionally. Loving oneself means that you would not hurt yourself in anyway or cause yourself any pain deliberately. Many people who cut themselves are sensitive compassionate souls, who would never hurt another human being. Get them to see themselves and their own bodies as their ‘friends’. Ask them, would they hurt a friend? The answer would most definitely be ‘no’. If they treat themselves like friends, they would find it easier to not cut.

Although “cutting” is not largely discussed in Nigeria, some Nigerians still indulge in this. In fact, depression as a whole is not taking as a serious subject in Nigeria, since psychology is not really practiced in this country.

In Nigeria today,the rate of suicide  for the past 20 years is on a steady rise, meaning Nigerians are becoming more prone to depression and do not have the facilities at hand to treat this condition, because we do not take it seriously.

Let’s take depression seriously and always reach out a hand to help that crying girl we see at the street corner and go out of our way to nice to people who have made it their life career to make life a living hell to others….these are people who by their deeds are unconsciously calling out for help, people whom you can heal and give hope once again just by a single act of kindness.