Suicidal behaviour among adolescents is a prevalent issue in almost every part of the globe. Suicidal ideation being a significant primordial behavior to suicide attempts and completion should therefore be the point of intervention for any public health action to be effective. This study aimed to assess psychosocial factors as they relate to suicidal ideation among undergraduate university students.

The study adopted the cross-sectional research design. Multistage sampling technique was used to select 426 undergraduates of Babcock university, Ilishan-Remo, Ogun state, Nigeria. Validated instrument was used to measure psychosocial constructs of optimism on an 18-point rating scale, perceived social support on an 18-point rating scale, general self-efficacy on a 15-point rating scale, self-esteem on a 15-point rating scale as independent variables, while suicidal ideation, the dependent variable was measured on a 27-point rating scale. Data collected was analyzed and expressed as frequency distributions of responses, summaries of descriptive statistics of means and standard deviation and inferential statistics of Pearson’s correlation and regression analysis was used to characterize cause-effect relationships between independent and dependent variables.

The mean age of respondents was 19.32±2.22, 36.8% of respondents were males, 62.3% were females. Among respondents, the mean score of the independent variables show optimism was 12.36±2.79, perceived social support was 12.16±3.07, general self-efficacy was 10.71±2.42 and self-esteem was 9.58±2.95.Findings show that suicidal ideation had a mean score of 3.11±4.93 among respondents on a 27-point rating scale, however about 37.3% of them claimed to have thought about suicide in recent times. The result of Pearson’s bivariate correlation analysis showed negative relationships between psychosocial factors and suicidal ideation and that they were statistically significant (p-value<0.01) excluding general self-efficacy whose p-value was greater than 0.05 (p-value> 0.05). Self-esteem was the most correlated variable to suicidal ideation among respondents (r = -0.321). Lower levels of self-esteem depicted higher levels of suicidal ideation among respondents. Optimism was also significantly related (r = -0.286) to suicidal ideation and may serve as a protective factor against suicidal ideation among respondents. Perceived social support gave a significant inverse relationship Pearson’s correlation value (r = -0.220) to suicidal ideation and may infer social support as a protective factor against suicidal ideation.

In conclusion, this study shows that suicidal ideation although very low, is prevalent among the students of the study population and the identified psychosocial factors could serve as protective factors against suicidal behaviour. Possible interventions would require creating awareness to reduce stigmatization on suicidal behaviorand make it easy for students to seek help for their mental health.

Keywords: Psychosocial, Suicidal ideation, Optimism, Perceived social support, Self-esteem, General self-efficacy.



1.1       Background to the Study

Suicide is a multifaceted self-annihilating behavior resulting from a complicated interaction of several factors on a personal and environmental level. As a result of a steady rise in suicide rates over the past 50 years, the World Health Organization established suicide as a key global public health concern. Suicide with a worldwide mortality rate of 16 per 100,000 otherwise translated to one death every 40 seconds’ totaling the death of almost one million people every year (WHO, 2011) and as such constitute an important public health concern. According to WHO(2014), it was estimated that about 804,000 suicide deaths occurred globally in 2012. It was also reported that a yearly worldwide age-standardized suicide rate of 11.4 per 100,000 population (8.0 for females; 15.0 for males) have been documented.

The concept of suicidal ideation depicts thoughts that one’s life is not worth living, it may range in intensity from passing thoughts to actual well figured-out plans for killing oneself or a total fixation with self-annihilation. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) of the United States of America, in 2013 gave estimates in a research of about 17.0% of students vigorously considering attempting suicide in the previous 12 months (22.4% of females and 11.6% of males); 13.6% of some students made plans about how they would attempt suicide in the previous 12 months (16.9% of females and 10.3% of males).

These suicidal behaviors and thoughts are common among young people. However, studies on suicidal behavioral patterns in Africa have been scarce which may be due to cultural beliefs that perceive suicide to be an abomination. Omigbodun, Dogra, Esan and Adedokun, (2008) conducted a study in Nigeria that indicates suicidal behavior is relatively common in Nigeria. The study reported that the one year prevalence of suicidal attempts among adolescents in southwest Nigeria is 12%. According to the WHO Mortality Database, about 75% of suicides in the world occur in low and middle income countries, although national-level data are unavailable for most of these countries (WHO, 2014), most of which are developing countries in Asia, Africa and South America. According to Randall, Doku, Wilson and Peltzer, 2014, the true scope of the issue in Nigeria and West Africa as a whole is hidden by incomplete surveillance and probable socio-cultural issues surrounding suicide and its related stigma.

Suicidal behaviors as with other disease outcomes are mediated by factors which could improve or degrade the quality of life of the individuals that are affected. The mental state of the individual is a function of psychology which may be influenced by several social associations between the individual and the components of the environment. This interaction is termed psychosocial and as such serve as factors (psychosocial factors) that affect the mental health of the individual. The term “psychosocial factors” is developed from two words “psychological” and “social”; by combining the Merriam-Webster’s dictionary (1997) definitions of psychological, “of or relating to the state of mind and behavior of an individual or a group”; social “of or relating to human society” and factor “an agent” or “something that actively contributes to a result”. The definition of psychosocial factors is then: an agent of the mind or behavior of an individual or group that actively contributes to a result. The concept of psychosocial factors is complex to grasp because it reflects the individuals’ perception, experiences and reflects many considerations unique to that particular individual. Some of these considerations refer to the state of mind of the individual i.e. psychology, while others relate to the social setting in which they find themselves hence the concept of psychosocial factors.