It may come as a surprise to you, but by the end of today, five or more people in Ghana would have taken their own lives, a phenomenon known as suicide. The worst part of it is that some of these persons may take the life of other people (Homicide) before taking theirs.
Some alarming information stumbled upon by The Globe newspaper reveal that the rate of suicide (the action of killing oneself intentionally) in Ghana is climbing at an incredible rate.
The last few weeks have seen the crime dominating newspaper headlines. This has caused fear and panic with some calling for national prayers to exorcise Ghana from any evil.
Available statistics on suicide in Ghana put together by the Network for Anti-suicide and Crisis Prevention over a year indicate that Greater Accra region had the highest number of deaths by suicide, recording 431 and still counting.
Below is the breakdown by region Greater Accra Region 431 Northern Region 276 Ashanti Region 132 Upper West 118 Brong Ahafo Region 114 Upper East 102 Western Region 102 Eastern Region 98 Volta Region 97 Central region 86
Per the data, an average of five out of every 10 people die every day in Ghana and this could even be worse should families or victims be bold enough to give information about some deaths that have been covered up and blamed on “illness”.
The Globe’s checks indicate that the most dominant method being used in the southern sector was by hanging and poisoning while in the northern sector it was by fire arm and hanging.
According to the statistics, the highest number of cases recorded was between the ages of 20 to 35 years which recorded a total of 702 and the outstanding reason for them committing suicide has been attributed to love relationship problems, poverty amongst others.
The next category is people between the ages of nine to 19 years which recorded 531 deaths. The dominant cause of their death ranged between problems with parents, failure at school, inability of parents to provide their needs, love relationship problems amongst others.
The third category ranges from 36 years upwards and that recorded about 323 deaths. The foremost reason for this category of people is impotence and poverty.
The staggering statistics further revealed that within the year more men committed suicide than women. 1, 129 men took their lives as against 427 women.
A former President of the International Association for Suicide Prevention, Professor Brian Mishara in a survey conducted by his institution revealed that "more than a million people worldwide die by suicide each year, many millions make suicide attempts severe enough to need medical treatment and many more millions are affected by the disastrous impact of a suicide. A global mortality rate of 1 death every 40 seconds."
He added that "in this age of preoccupation with global violence, terrorism and homicides, we often ignore the fact that worldwide more people kill themselves than die in all wars, terrorist acts and interpersonal violence combined.”
The World Health Organization (WHO) stated that by the year 2020, 1.5 million people will kill themselves annually worldwide. The sheer numbers make suicide and suicidal behaviour a top health issue. The WHO has, in fact, made suicide prevention, along with public prevention of malaria and tobacco related diseases, the top priorities for the first decade of this millennium.
Committing suicide in Ghana or attempting to commit suicide in Ghana is a criminal act and some Civil Society Organisations are calling for the decriminalisation of suicide so that persons who have the intention to commit or are contemplating the act can come forward for help.
Section 57 Clause 2 of the 1960 Criminal Code of Ghana clearly states that attempted suicide is a crime.
Just last week, about four people were reported to have committed suicide and these reports came from the rural areas. Information is, however, rife that the act of suicide is rampant in the rural areas and due to the fear of stigma against relatives of the victims, most of the cases are covered up.
The Chief Psychiatrist at the Ghana Health Service, Dr. Akwasi Osei, said 93-95% of all suicides and attempted suicides are from mental disorders, with over 80% of the lot from depression.
Creative Minds, an NGO established with the aim of preventing and a helping person with suicide intentions told The Globe in an interview that “the rate at which suicide is spreading in the country is becoming alarming. It has become more dangerous than HIV/Aids that we’re all fighting against. When someone decides to commit suicide it doesn’t take 10 minutes to execute, by the time you step out of the room and return, you’d see him or her hanging or poison themselves.”
The founder of Creative Minds, Madam Mary Addy, who herself contemplated suicide some years ago confirmed the fact that “more men are committing suicide than women and it is the youth, the working class.”
Madam Addy and her NGO which is crying for funding to help reduce the suicide rate in the country literally moves from town to town whenever she gets a call from someone who is contemplating suicide and try to counsel the person out of it. This hectic assignation, she said, is funded from her own pocket, but said this has helped her realise reasons why people would want to take their lives.
She outlined some of the reasons saying “in Ghana, some of the causes are sexual abuses, stigmatisation, emotional pains from serious losses - be it the loss of a relative or some material things. People who have been diagnosed with HIV can commit suicide.”
She added: “In my case for example, I was defiled when I was nine years and the mental pain was there throughout and I was growing with the pain and stigma. When your relatives or guardians do not show you any love or tell you anything good about yourself and all you go through is sorrow and suffering, what then is the essence of life? People have taken suicide as the means to an end or the only way available to end it all.”
Dr. David Brent, a psychiatrist at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center said “a first-degree relative - a parent, sibling or child - of a person who has committed suicide is four to six times more likely to attempt or complete a suicide.”**