Decriminalise Suicide Chief Psychiatrist

The Chief Psychiatrist, Dr Akwasi Osei, has advocated decriminalising suicide in the country.
He said rather than punishing victims who attempted suicide, families and communities should help them to recover from their challenges.

Dr Osei, who is also the Chief Executive Officer of the Mental Health Authority, was speaking at a forum on suicide in Accra last Saturday. 

He called for the repeal of the Criminal Code of 1963 which prescribes a term of incarceration for attempted suicide.

Suicide is a deliberate harm resulting in death. Most times, perpetrators use it as a way out of a problem.

People who commit suicide believe that they are in a crisis and the only way out is to end it all.

Causes of suicide

Dr Osei said mental illness accounted for 95 per cent of all suicide cases in the country.

He mentioned moral weakness, stigma and economic hardship as contributory factors to incidences of suicide.

Institutional weakness and breakdown of traditional extended family system are other factors.

Dr Addam

A Resident in Psychiatry at the Accra Psychiatric Hospital, Dr Selasie Addam, referred to a report published in 2012 by a body called the Network for Anti-Suicide in Crisis Prevention, which estimated that about 1,500 people die from suicide in Ghana in a year.

According to the report, Dr Addam said, suicide cases were highest among people below 35 years and they were found predominantly in the Greater Accra Region.

She said the most common methods used in the southern parts of the country were hanging and poisoning, while hanging and dying through gunshot were preferable in the north of the country.

Dr Addam added that the causes of suicide may be due to chronic illness, infliction of cancer, chronic pain, burns over a large part of the face or injuries through accidents.

She reiterated that people who committed suicide believed they were in a crisis and that there was no way out but to end it all.

Risk factors

According to Dr Addam, completed suicides were higher in males, while females exhibited higher suicide attempts.

She said women with a history of mental illness had a higher risk of committing suicide.

Dr Addam said people who were married were more protected from committing suicide and "people who are divorced, separated or single are more likely to commit suicide."

In addition, she said people who were practising a form of religion or believed in a deity higher than themselves were protected from suicide.

"The higher the level of education, the higher the risk of committing suicide because they feel the pain of failure more," she added.