Suicidal behaviour is a complex one and maybe difficult to explain why someone engages in the act. Research into this behaviour in Ghana, however continues to show various psychosocial factors and in some cases mental illnesses which are strongly associated with these behaviours (especially among the youth).
These include, neglect, use of illicit drugs, conflictual relationships with parents, romantic crisis, academic/education stress, bullying in schools, financial difficulties, sexual and physical abuse, depression, etc.
We appreciate the readiness of the Ghanaian media in publicising suicide stories and seeking professional commentaries on these behaviours anytime such incident occurs. The intentions and motivations may be noble in seeking to educate the public about these behaviours.
However, the manner in which these stories are published may create further problems for all of us.
Particularly, mentally distressed persons in society may simply copy the behavior of troubled people in the suicide stories. There may be several psychosocial conditions prevailing now which are making people suicidal.
Uncensored published stories of how some people planned, and killed themselves (and perhaps the note some might leave behind) may simply help those on the verge of suicide, to consider ending their lives as well. This is called ‘copycat suicides’. The media’s role in suicide prevention is thus crucial and should be carefully guided by professional’s working in this area of mental health, such as the Ghana Psychological Association.
We are thus calling on the various media houses in Ghana to be circumspect with suicide stories they publish. They should be guided by the following:
- They should limit the amount of coverage of suicide stories. This might include avoiding publishing pictures of the victim (dead or alive), full details of the story such as house, job, name, town etc
- Avoid sensational headings and words such as “man butchers his wife and kills himself”, “student chops off his head to die fast”, “man kills himself on New Year’s Eve”. Any word that appears to heighten the gory nature of the incident should be avoided.
- Avoid publishing anything on the method that was used and how it was used. This is dangerous and could be providing clues to those who are already going through crisis to know exactly how to kill themselves.
- Avoid glamourizing and highlighting any positive aspects of the victim. For example, if the person is a celebrity, do not report how much he /she’s worth, number of cars, houses, etc. The danger is that if such a person who is perceived to have all it takes to make life worth living engages in the act, then what should those struggling to make ends meet do? They may justify their reasons for suicidal behaviour.
Suicide prevention is often not an activity for a ‘privileged’ group such as mental health professionals (although they have a key role to play). Everyone close to someone who is experiencing some forms of crises can be useful and helpful. In this regard, we call on every one to be empathic and avoid being judgmental to persons who are hurting, rather engage and infuse hope in them, and lead them to professionals who can help.
The Ghana Psychological Association continues to call on government to consider expunging the law that criminalizes attempted suicide in Ghana and rather put in place a national policy that will provide the framework for suicide prevention in the country.
To anybody who is presently experiencing crisis in any area of life and contemplating suicide, we advise that you desist and rather seek support and help from qualified mental health practitioners such as psychologists, psychiatrists and counsellors.
These may be found at all the teaching hospitals, counselling centres in universities and the psychiatric hospitals. Church Counsellors are also helpful in times of crises.
You can also call the numbers below for help.
For further information, contact 0207373222/0244296435
Source: Ghana Psychological Association (GPA)