Is jail the right response for a suicide attempt?

Due to many frustrations, a man Ifeanyi Ugokwe attempts suicide by diving into the Lagos lagoon but some fishermen rescue him and that made him angry.

In Nigeria, anyone who is convicted of attempting suicide may serve one year in prison. - CNN

Poverty is the main motivation according to a CNN report. Before making the daring jump into the waters, the 25-year-old tries to get a job at a construction site but a bad experience with a security guard at the venue makes him lose hope.

Seeking an end to his own life was a choice Ugokwe thought he had sole control over. That appeared not to be the case when the fishermen who saved him delivered him to policemen.

Instead of getting care and love, the officers reportedly help him to the inside of jail from where he waited to see a judge that will determine if he has committed a crime.

"When they put me in the cell, the first thing that came to my mind was what did I do? I didn't kill anybody. I did not steal. What am I doing here? What did I do wrong? It's my life, not (the) government's life," Ifeanyi Ugokwe says in a chat with CNN.

In Nigeria, attempting suicide is punishable under Section 327 of the Criminal Code Act. Anyone convicted risks spending a year in prison.

While shuffling between different prisons as he waits to see a judge at a magistrate court in Lagos, Ugokwe meets a criminal lawyer Imanuella Ojeah, who was visiting the prison he was in as a member of a Christian mission.

"I remember he seemed tired of life. He begged me to get him out of that place. He told me... I am not mad. I am just depressed and don't have money to eat," CNN gathers from the lawyer who makes the needed move to get him out of prison.

In April 2017, Ifeanyi Ugokwe appears at the Sabo Magistrates Court where a guarantor was needed in order to secure his freedom. Ojeah is able to help him get one from a Christian ministry Elevation Church.

Having fulfilled the requirements of the law, the case is dismissed by the magistrate preventing him from wasting a year in prison.

Experiences while waiting to see a judge

In the report by CNN, the 25-year-old man narrates traumatic experiences while locked up in prison.

It is the worst type of response in handling a person who has just attempted suicide. 

"The worst part of it was not just that they put me in prison, it was that they locked me in a cell with crazy people. I was with mentally disturbed people. Most of the people there were talking to themselves and jumping around."

In addition to the torture, he remembers being forced to take pills that make him hungry and desire sleep.

It is such a terrible encounter what he recalls as punishment for being naive.

"At that time, I needed love. I didn't need to be put in prison and punished for something I don't even understand," Ugokwe tells CNN.

Depression has often been identified in a list of negative factors affecting people dealing with poverty.

Without a clear and defined mechanism to help those dealing with it and other mental health problems resulting from environmental headaches, Nigeria is losing out on human capital it should rather be investing on.

The country can push for more training of its security agencies to help make the right call when dealing with persons needing only love to combat threats to their existence.

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