Dealing with suicidal tendencies

There have been a few suicide cases that have caused a lot of concern due to the ages of the persons involved. I recall the jumping to death of a female student of the University of Ghana, Legon. 

Another case was the death of the daughter of a Member of Parliament of the current ruling New Patriotic Party. These are but a few of the suicide cases that have happened in our country and it is definitely a cause for concern.

This month, we will be celebrating the International Suicide Day which provides opportunity for government to highlight the issue of suicide and focus the attention of society on it.

Life is a much cherished thing and the survival instinct is very great and, therefore, for someone to deliberately decide to end his or her life is quite bizarre. It strongly suggests a certain degree of mental confusion which borders on insanity. 

Someone said that “there is a certain degree of madness in every individual and the fact that a person goes and comes on a daily basis without any display of mental instability, does not mean that you are of a sound mind”.

It only needs something small to trigger the mental instability and the demonstration of the mental problem would start manifestation.   

Causes of suicide vary from person to person. It is generally caused by stress that can be due to loss of say a loved one, rejection by family, lover etc. In the case of the young lady at KNUST who committed suicide, it was attributed to her being jilted by her lover and led to her decision to take her own life. 

The lady who jumped to her death at Legon, it was also reported that she hinted that she sometimes felt like jumping from the top floor. All these point to the need for a psychiatric or counselling support centre that is easily accessible to students and society in general, so people who feel stressed can easily walk in to seek help. 

There is also the need for an intensive educational effort by the Ministry of Health aimed at sensitising the populace about alertness towards potential suicidal people.  In the case of the lady who committed suicide at Legon, may be a bit of awareness towards signs of suicidal tendencies by her colleagues might have saved her life.

People around us are those who can easily detect any changes in our normal behaviour and be the best people to detect if there is anything wrong with us. 

However, if they are not trained to detect signs of danger in terms of mental disorders, they cannot help raise the alarm and before it is realised that something is amiss, it might be too late to save the situation. 

COVID-19 has brought in its wake a lot of stress upon individuals both young and old and immediate steps must be taken by government to increase awareness of the potential for suicidal thoughts.   

A couple of days ago, there was a reportage of a young boy in the Cape Coast Municipality who jumped to his death. The report had it that, the boy who was living with his father and step mother, had been receiving beatings on a frequent basis according to neighbours. 

According to neighbours, on several occasions they had heard the boy crying at dawn due to beatings he had been subjected to by his father. 

On the fateful day that he jumped to his death, he was apparently trying to escape from a similar beating from his father who had earlier gone to bring him to their room from outside and beaten him. 

The neighbours claimed that it was after his father had left him briefly that he tried to escape by jumping from the storey building, resulting in his untimely death.  If the neighbours had been a bit more proactive, they might have reported to the police about the abusive situation the child was going through and might have saved his life.

There is this social value that is gradually eroding but must be brought back. Those days that a neighbour would not hesitate to discipline you when you went wrong without waiting for your parents to return before informing them, is something worth considering. 

The idea of being each other’s keeper seems to have vanished due to so-called human rights, modernisation and what have you.  We are in an era where parents are bold enough to go to schools to attack teachers for caning their children and somehow get away with it.  The times where people made it a point to interact cheerfully with their neighbours and were able to notice the changes in their mood, are long gone.

It has become an each one for himself situation and so there have been occasions where people have died and it has gone unnoticed till after a few days have gone by. That aspect of our social lives that served as a huge source of stress reliever, is gone and so a lot of people, especially women are stressed up. 

The Ministry of Education has already initiated a programme of counselling for tertiary institutions but they must make it more proactive. The counsellors must interact with the students such that it would be easy for students to contact them and be ready to open up to them.

This is the only way that issues that are troubling these young adults, can be handled to relieve them of the pressures or stresses that push them into contemplating suicidal actions. The other group that has to be taken care of is the young people who are outside the educational system. 

Special attention must be given them and government must develop a means for addressing their needs and also make “where to go for help” easily accessible.

The internet has also become an avenue for children to be abused and parents must pay attention to what their children do on the internet. Government must assist parents in this direction by making access to a hotline for parents available, so they can seek guidance should they find out that their children are being abused on the internet. 

Again, should they want to block their children from certain sites, they must be given the assistance to do so. We are in a very complex and very challenging world and young people especially, are under a lot of pressure and everything possible must be done to protect them.

Parents now have a responsibility to pay more attention to their children and the government must do more to provide them with the necessary tools such as TV programmes that would educate them on how to detect signs of stress in their wards. 

Civil society and the religious organisations must also be involved in this crusade to assist the parents so they in turn can assist the efforts by government, so that collectively, the protection of the youth from suicidal tendencies, would be achieved.

Laud Kissi-Mensah

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