CONTROVERSY is still trailing the death of Nigerian Navy’s Rear Admiral Teikumo Daniel Ikoli, who was originally thought to be Nigeria’s latest suicide case. The late Rear Admiral Ikoli was the fleet commander of the Western command of the Nigerian Navy, and was thought to be on President Mohammadu Buhari’s shopping list for the next Chief of Naval staff. Admiral Ikoli was promoted to the western command after his tenure in the military arms probe. In the first reports about his death, he was said to have shot himself three times with his service pistol in the head and heart. But a follow-up report by the news Agency of Nigeria (NAN) says “authoritative sources” dispelled the speculation. The NAN report was grossly at variance with an earlier report which claimed that many people in Admiral Ikoli’s office remembered him as always lamenting that he was “tired of life.”

Whatever was the cause of Admiral Ikoli’s death, Time would tell. But the first reports have set a stage for suicide which has increased public awareness that suicide is becoming rampant in Nigeria, and led to enquires about what may make a person take his or her life.

The suicide of 35-year old Dr. Allwell Orgi, a medical practitioner, set the ball rolling. About two weeks later, a young man who worked with a telephone service provider reportedly jumped into the water near FESTAC town, Lagos. Then came the reports of Admiral Ikoli’s death.

In the course of these events, the police in seven States have released information which shows that 67 suicides took place in their states in six months. One of them was that of a 500 Level student of Urban and Regional planning of Ladoke Akintola University, (LAUTECH), Ogbomosho. Another suicide was that of a student at Babcock University, Ilisan.

A common feature of suicide in Nigeria is that the suicides do not leave behind suicide notes which, in Europe or the United States for example, help their society to understand why they killed themselves and to learn from it. This has led to many speculations that Nigeria’s economic recession may be the cause, in contradiction of a United Nations rating that Nigerians are the sixth happiest people in Africa and 95th in the world.

I took an opposite stand, as I intend to do here, in my posts on www.olufemikusa.com titled “Dr Orji, sickle cell and brain disorder, jaundice (1) and (2). The health challenges he was said to face, namely sickle cell crisis and epilepsy, were explored as possible causes of his suicide. In the cases mentioned by the police, possible economic distress did not appear to be a common denominator. There was a case of a young woman who was jilted.Another young person complained about ill treatment by her grandmother. I listened to a suicide bid story at a branch of Zenith bank about two years ago. A young male worker of the bank was jilted by his girlfriend. On the Saturday morning she was to be married to another man, he sprayed the inside of his car with petrol, sat in and set the car ablaze. He was lucky that some people saw the car burning and rushed in to put out the fire. They dragged his severely burnt body out and took him to hospital. He survived and was glad to have been rescued. His friends told him how happy the girl would have felt, not marrying a man “without liver”, as we say colloquially.

Now that suicides in Nigeria are becoming public events, questions have arisen about their possible causes and the relationships with mental health. I did say in the second Dr. Orji post in www.olufemikusa.com that almost all of us suffer from one mental condition or the other, and that it would appear that the government and the medical establishment are not paying sufficient attention to mental health. Ophthalmologist waited for too long while almost every-one was going blind before they made vision issues public matters. So did Oncologists until cancer became a public question. So did Urologists until men in their forties began to develop kidney and prostate diseases, some of them irreversible. So, how does a lay person suspect if he has signs of mental illness, so he or she can immediately see his doctor or a psychiatric doctor?

Depression

Every physician who treats mental disorder or illness, be it a psychiatric doctor, clinical psychologist, nutritionist or health-care giver starts from a baseline of depression. We do not have to search far for the meaning of the word in Nigeria. we have had a buoyant economy, and we are currently in a depressed economy. So, the differences should be clear between a buoyant brain and a depressed brain. Many healers approach mental depression from different angles. While the clinical psychologists tries to talk the patient out of his or troubles, the psychiatric doctor tries to medicate the problems away. These problems have to do with the insufficiency of neuro-transmitters such as Serotonin, Melatonin and Dopamine and their precursor amino acids. But for a doctor like Dr. F. Batmanghelidj, author of YOUR BODY’S MANY CRIES FOR WATER; YOU’RE NOT SICK, YOU’RE ONLY THIRSTY; and OBESITY, CANCER and DEPRESSION subtitled “their common cause and natural cure“, it is all about dehydration in the brain. He likens brain cells to green grass. He says that, if the grass is not watered in hot weather, it would suffer from “brown grass disease”, initially turn yellow, then brownish and die. That’s exactly what happens in the brain, he says.

Before we return to this versatile doctor, I would like to first visit herbal medicine which comes to the same conclusions about hormonal disturbances in the brain as does orthodox medicine, although they part ways in therapeutic approaches to healing.

Depression has its origins in sadness. Many events of life make us sad. This may be the inability to find a boyfriend or a husband when they feel time is running out for such matters. We may be married but there are no children to seal the bond tighter. We may have children who are misbehaving. We may have no job in our hands and hate to be dependent. Divorce may be crippling. We may find it difficult to recover from the death of a loved one. Business may fail. We may be unable to pay our children’s school fees or pay the house rent. Our families may be able to afford no more than one meal everyday. At the work place, someone may be favoured with the promotion we believe is our due. In these anti-corruption days, we may have been exposed in one deal or another or expect that the whistle blowers would soon tell on us.

It is not all sadness which end up in clinical depression. But when sadness is prolonged for months or even years, it begins to take its toll on the brain, literally consuming those brain chemicals called neuro-transmitters without which, in the right amounts and ratios, the brain cannot effectively and efficiently function.

Symptoms

The following symptoms are worth watching out for, to suspect or rule out depression. According to Robert Rister in JAPANESE HERBAL MEDICINE.

“These symptoms include depressed mood on a consistent basis, in younger people irritability; the loss of interest or pleasure in all or nearly all activities; either sleeplessness or the desire to sleep all the time; persistent feeling of guilt or worthlessness; decreased energy and fatigue; difficulty in concentration;  either decreased or increased appetite; agitation or retardation of motor reflexes or suicidal thoughts.”

Many authorities say depression is caused by a shortage of a chemical substance in the brain called serotonin. This substance transports nerve impulses from one nerve cell to another, that is as a neuro-transmitter. It is made from an amino acid called Tryptophan by the brain and other tissues in the body. The body may run out of Tryptophan if not enough of it is present in the diet, if stress blocks its production or if, for whatever reason, it cannot cross from the bloodstream into the brain.

Every branch of medicine classifies depression. The psychiatric doctor may speak of sub clinical or clinical depression, or of unipolar and bi-polar depression. The Asians, like Western herbalists, talk of problems of the heart (mind, in Europe). In Japan, for example, too little nutritive energy reaching the heart was thought to cause one type of depression in which are present “insomnia, nervous unrest and night sweats”,according to Robert Rister. Too much nutritive energy in the heart would cause “blazing heart fire” and produce “acute mental illness”, with depression alternating with “mania, nightmares, palpitations, redness in the face, restlessness and ulcer of the mouth and tongue.” Restrained anger is seen as causing another type of depression…liver oppression, which may present “acid reflux or heart burn, anxiety, bloating, the fullness in the chest and pain in the side.”

To these symptoms, James F. Balch, M.D., and Mark Stengler N.D., add the following: in their PRESCRIPTIONS FOR NATURAL CURES:

   “…mood swings at times characterised by unexplained weeping, feelings of apathy, worthlessness, hopelessness and helplessness, irritability or guilt, sleep problems either insomnia or sleeping too much, appetite disturbances (eating too little or too much), headaches, backaches and digestive problems, difficulty concentrating or making decisions, increased anxiety, decreased sex drive, avoiding social situations, recurrent thoughts of death or suicide…”

I find the aspect of “recurring thoughts of suicide” alarming because some people with emotional problems who speak with me say they often hear inner voices asking them, for example, to jump from pedestrian bridges into fast moving traffic below. When it comes to this, or when a woman is cutting beef in the kitchen and feels like stabbing herself with the knife, a case of “possession” is not too far away. Many doctors have no answer to this question. For it is a case in which the blood radiation of the subject has fallen so low to the point at which a disembodied entity has ridden on this weakened radiation bridge to the soul of this person, in order to control the blood radiation and brain of the affected person. It requires a deft combination of green foods to normalise the blood radiation and make the body unusable to the invading or possessing ethereal entity, which then takes its exit. Temporarily a psychiatric doctor may help a possessed person by putting him or her to sleep over a prolonged period. Finding the brain and body of this possessed person physically unusable, the possessing entity takes it leave only to return when the “soil” is fertile again. This is a reason why relapses may occur after a seeming cure.

Let’s return to Alternative Medicine. Balch and Stengler advice us of the possible root causes of depression:

“Tension and stress, unresolved emotional issues, chronic illness or pain, neuro-transmitter imbalance, hormonal imbalance especially after childbirth or as a result of oral contraceptive and other synthetic hormone medications commonly occurs with PMS and menopause. Preexisting conditions-most commonly, hypoglycemia, anaemia, sleep apnea, low adrenal function and thyroid gland malfunction, alcoholic and recreational drug use, poor diet, food allergies, nutritional deficiencies, (particularily of B12, folic acid, B6, B1, Tyrosine, and Tryptophan), lack of sunlight, medications, including corticosteroids, anti-histamines, blood pressure medications, anti-inflammatory drugs, narcotics and some pharmaceutical anti-depressants, heavy metal toxicity, candidiasis, sleep disturbances…”

Remedies

It is amazing how small, seemingly in consequential events can dispose us to depression and even suicide when we may have avoided them through lifestyle changes and the diet. Detoxification is a major first step to take to reverse this condition. Next is the re-balancing of brain chemistry. This column often mention NONI juice which supports the making of Serotonin and Dopamine, two major brain neuro-transmitters. On the Nigerian natural health market are, also, such useful proprietary formulas as BEHAVIOUR BALANCE and MOOD SUPPORT. Walnut and walnut leaf powder tea support brain health and normalcy. When the black walnut is split into its two lobes, it reminds us of the two lobes of the brain. Even the membrane which separates them and is often discarded by some people but is good for making heart wine reminds us of a similar membrane in the brain. The two lobes of the black walnut and its membrane partition should remind us of a similar architecture of the brain which gives this up as the signature tune of the walnut as a brain herb.

S-Adenosyl-methionine (SAMe) is reported to increase concentration of brain neuro-transmitters which balance the mood. B complex vitamins support SAMe metabolism and, so, are important too. It is often suggested that, in bi-polar disorder, SAMe should be taken under a doctor’s supervision.  In some health shops or pharmacies, you may find (5-HTP) (5-hydroxyl tryptophan) on the shelf. It is the chemical substance from which SEROTONIN is made. The B complex vitamins, (especially vitamin B6) are, again, useful in the making of 5-HTP. In mild to moderate depression, St.John’s Wort has been of great value to therapy and validated as such in many standard studies. We cannot do away with the B complex vitamins, especially Vitamin B1, B6 and folic acid, which are also good for cleaning the blood vessels of Homocysteine blockages. They support the body’s production of neuro-transmitters. The body does not store them. So they have to be included in the diet everyday. Fish oil, especially DHA, is another important collaborator in the production of neuro-transmitters. People who eat Titus fish everyday should have lots of it.

Dr. Batmanghelidj

He puts depression all down to dehydration in the brain’s nine trillion cells which are about 85 percent water and about 9 percent of the hundred trillion cells which are said to inhabit the mature adult physical body. He speaks elaborately about the essential and non-essential amino acid and the crucial roles of Histidine and Histamine to the watering of the brain. Histidine gets converted to Histamine during dehydration. Histamine ensures the brain has enough water. But we produce less Histidine as we age. Water energises mineral (calcium/magnesium) and salt (sodium/potassium) pumps in the brain. In dehydration, Histamine takes over the functions of water. But the brain function becomes inefficient if it has to rely on Histamin and not water for a long time in the production of hydro-electric energy for the cells. This is the situation medicine labels as depression.

Dr. Batmanghelidj says it is “criminal” for a doctor to give a depressed person anti-histamine, when histamine is standing-by for water, and the patient is not given water and helped to retain it. He describes the tricyclic psychiatric anti-depressant drugs and their modern successors as anti-histamines.

He explains in the way lay people will understand it the relationship between Tryptophan, Serotonin and Melatonin, and why serotonin is found in short supplies in the nerves of depressed people…special cells just cannot deliver Tryptophan for conversion to Serotonin. In dehydration, he says, acidosis increases, and amino acids such as Tryptophan, Tyrosine, Cysteine, Methionine and more are “sacrificed” to keep the body slightly alkaline and healthier. Coffee and many other popular beverages dehydrate brain cells and cause acidosis. But water rehydrates and transports Tryptophan into the brain for its conversion to Serotonin. Water is like a river. There are many vehicles or boats (transport systems) on this river. Tryptophan shares a transport system to the brain with some other amino acids and neuro-transmitters. In times of stress, the passenger load of these others grows and Tryptophan may be crowded out of the boat, reducing its quantum in the brain. Similarly, Tyrosine may be crowded out of its transport vehicle, creating a shortage of Dopamine in the brain. Dr. Batmanghelidj’s book provides some case histories which validate his arguments derived from clinical work and research of more than 25 years.

Many people who show signs of depression and suicide tendencies can be helped out of them through a change of diet and life style which remove poisons from the body, pumps into it minerals, vitamins and all the amino acids (essential and non-essential) and, above all normalises the blood radiation.