1,556 Suicides in 2008

Last Thursday, September 10, when the World Suicide Prevention Day was marked worldwide without recognition in Ghana, little did many Ghanaians recognize the scale of the social menace in their own backyard. Figures made available by International Association for Suicide Prevention (IASP) indicate that suicide rates are very alarming in Ghana, with more than 1,556 cases involving 1,129 male and 427 female in 2008 alone. Dominant methods are hanging and poisoning in the southern sector and fire arm and hanging in the northern sector. A statement signed by Wisdom Mensah Dali Director, of IASP says the challenge of suicide prevention is now one of the most urgent social issues facing Ghana. Attempted suicide remains a criminal offence in Ghana according to Section 57 (Clause) 2 of the 1960 criminal code. But IASP is calling for decriminalizing suicide attempt in Ghana, arguing that criminal punishments applied to attempted suicide, has the ironic effect of encouraging persons who may want to attempt suicide to make certain they did not fail. "This call is not an acceptance or endorsement of the individual's self-determination in taking his or her life, but rather from a more pragmatic understanding that, there is no form of criminal punishment that is acceptable for a completed suicide." IASP, in official relations with the WHO, believes that suicide prevention should be given greater priority at global, national, and local levels incorporating research that has shown suicide is preventable. "It is not a neutral behavior. As a word, it evokes powerful emotional reactions regardless of the outcome. It is a traumatic event in any setting for the individual and for all the people who have some connection with that person. The person who commits suicide puts his psychological skeleton in the survivor's closet", says the statement. "Suicide deaths exact a tremendous and tragic psychological, social and economic cost every year, but the primary message we want to convey on World Suicide Prevention Day is that we can prevent suicide. More than a million people worldwide die by suicide each year." According to the statement more people kill themselves than die in all wars, terrorist activities and homicides. Many millions more make suicide attempts severe enough to need medical treatment, and over six million people are affected each year by the disastrous impact of the suicide of a close friend or family member. "We want to send a positive message and a message of hope, we now have a clear understanding of the causes of suicide and we know enough to be able to prevent a significant proportion of these tragic, unnecessary and premature deaths, to treat suicidal people effectively and to help families bereaved by suicide." The statement added that suicide results from a complex interaction of causal factors, including mental illness, poverty, substance abuse, social isolation, losses, relationship difficulties and workplace problems. To be effective, suicide prevention needs to incorporate a multifaceted approach that acknowledges the multiple causes of suicidal behavior.