The recent spate of suicide in the country is an alarming trend that calls for serious societal concern. Society ought to introspect itself and ask thought provoking questions as to why suicide seems to be on the ascendency within the first quarter of 2017. What has gone wrong and what role can society play to help prevent suicide. How would society identify someone having a suicidal thought and what help can people offer to such people.
This is not the first time Ghana is recording suicide cases but the current episode seems unprecedented and Ghana is will be doomed if it continuous in this path without adequate preventive measures put in place to curtail the unfortunate situation.
Key Facts About Suicide
- Close to 800, 000 people die due to suicide every year.
- For every suicide there are many more people who attempt suicide every year.
- A prior suicide attempt is the single most important risk factor for suicide in the general population.
- Suicide is the second leading cause of death among 15–29-year-olds.
- 78% of global suicides occur in low- and middle-income countries.
- Ingestion of pesticide, hanging and firearms are among the most common methods of suicide globally.
Source – WHO
What is Suicide?
Suicide is the act of deliberately ending one’s life. People who commit suicide do not really want to die. They want to escape from a painful situation. They are being weighed down by overwhelming psychosocial factors that they are unable control. Ending their lives becomes the only option they think will relieve them from such problems as pains, frustrations, debilitating illnesses, economic hardships and many other factors. The World Health Organisation estimates that approximately 1 million people commit suicide each year.
People who commit suicide or have suicidal thoughts have the feeling of hopelessness, dejection and think life is worthless. They feel no help can ever come their way to solve their problems and ending their lives is the only option for them to employ. It must however be noted that mental illnesses account for 95% of all suicide cases. These include; Depression, Schizophrenia, Bipolar Disorder, Alcohol use Disorder etc.
Stigma on mental illness and societal rejection of persons suffering from mental illness is a contributing factor of suicide. Persons treated of mental illness and are able to function well in society are being despised for the mere fact that they have once suffered mental illness before. Society stigmatises such people even if they can offer meaningful contributions to their community despite having suffered mental illness before. Instead of society measuring these people by their capabilities, they rather stigmatise them. The stigma, the rejection and lack of ‘humane treatment’ of persons living with mental illness make them think they are worthless. This attitude of society towards the mentally ill and the deprived makes them feel hopeless in life and they think suicide becomes an option to take away their pains.
Some of the methods used in committing suicide include, hanging by rope, drinking poison, electrocution, self-mutilation with sharp object, fallen from a height, using guns etc.
Why do People Commit Suicide
For some people life is sweet. However, life can be very tormenting at times. People go through a lot of physical and psychological pain that seem to have no end in sight. These psychosocial problems become unbearable to some people over a period of time. They feel alone and helpless and may want to end their life to escape the pain and feeling they are experiencing.
Below are some of the reasons why people commit suicide:
- Mental illness (about 95% of all suicide cases) such as Depression, Schizophrenia, Alcohol or drug use Disorder and Bipolar Disorder
- Death of loved one – relative or friend
- Failure in examination and failure to achieve set goals in life following hopelessness
- Financial problems and economic hardships
- Relationship break-ups and marital problems
- Physical, emotional and sexual abuse
- Societal rejection and dejection
- Chronic pain and illness
Who Is At Risk Of Suicide?
Since mental illness constitutes about 95% of all suicide cases, mental patients are at risk of suicide, especially those suffering from depression. Everyone is at risk of suicide depending on individual’s level of response to life stresses such as financial problems and losses.
People may have suicidal behaviour when they experience devastating events such as earthquake, tsunami, conflicts and wars, physical, emotional and sexual abuse. Suicide rate is also high among prisoners, refugees, migrants, etc. People who have attempted suicide before have a higher risk of suicide.
Possible Signs Someone Might Be Thinking Of Suicide
Most people with suicidal thinking communicate their intentions in one way or the other through written letters, verbal pronouncement, or gestures. These warning signs of suicide should not be taken lightly.
Warning Signs Of Suicide Include:
- Previous suicide attempts
- Sudden withdrawal from relatives and people
- Feeling depressed and loss of hope
- Refusing food
- Saying goodbye to people when they are not travelling and giving away their belongings
- Loss of interest in his or her environment they previously enjoyed
- Neglecting their personal hygiene
- Saying things like life is not worth living or it better to die than living
- Engaging in self-destructive or risky behaviour
- Indiscriminate and increased use of alcohol and other drugs
- Feeling worthless
- Talking about suicide or writing notes about suicide
- Seeking access to something, they can us to kill themselves such as gun, knife, rope or poison
Suicide is preventable. Society has a collective responsibility in preventing suicide. From the parents and guardians at home, the Pastors and Imams at religious homes, counsellors, friends and relations, to the teacher in the classroom, all has a role to play. People ought to be more alert to identify clues and communication of someone who may be thinking of suicide. There should be awareness creation on suicide. They should also be a national policy on suicide.
People should be encouraged to seek counselling when confronted with overwhelming psychological pressure and stress. Adequate resting and regular training should also be encouraged to reduce stress.
Other measures to prevent suicide on people who may be having suicidal thoughts include:
- Follow up care for people with previous history of suicide attempt
- Reducing access to tools and items they can use to kill themselves
- Early identification of persons with mental disorder and treatment
- Showing love and compassion to relatives in crises
- Asking them directly what they are thinking about and your willingness to help them overcome their challenges.
- Persons with suicidal thoughts should not be left alone
- Tell them they are not alone in such situations and that there is hope for a better tomorrow despite their current situations.
Share your problem with someone you trust if you are thinking of suicide. Remember you are not alone facing that problem. Seek professional advice if you are experiencing psychological and mental problems.