A Clinical Psychologist and Suicidologist at the University of Ghana, Dr. Joseph Osafo, has asked faculty and students to venture into suicide research in order to curb the rising spate of suicide in the country.
“You can only intervene in suicide prevention when you have your own country specific data”, he said.
Dr. Osafo was addressing a three-day suicide awareness and prevention crusade organised by the Counselling Centre on the theme “Reaching out: Preventing Suicide, Saving Lives.” The programme was aimed at creating awareness about suicide with the view to preventing its occurrence in the University community and its environs.
According to him, the lack of research in suicide, mainly in low and middle income countries which usually record high cases of the menace, was undermining the efforts at preventing suicide in the country. He disclosed that the estimated rate of suicide in Ghana was 3.1 % and charged everybody, especially the non-professionals in Couselling, to strive hard to get a little knowledge in suicide prevention. “For suicide prevention: You don’t necessarily need to be a professional to begin. You simply get the knowledge”, Dr. Joseph reiterated.
Furthermore, he said people usually resort to suicide as the last straw largely to seek solution to their unanswered problems. The Clinical Psychologist and Suicidologist identified three levels of suicide repulsion within the society as family/ community, religious groups and the law. He stated, “The family accuses members of tarnishing its image, whilst the church creates impression of members transgressing against God and the law also prosecute citizens for attempting to commit suicide.”
Since 2012, according to him, he had made significant efforts to persuade some judges on the need not to pass judgement on accused persons brought before them for attempted suicide. “ I don’t see the sense in punishing someone who is in distress. They need support; they don’t need judgement”, he pointed out. He mentioned academic problems, impulsiveness, hopelessness, depression and poverty as psychological factors that make people sometimes commit suicide.
Dr. Osafo advised the audience to support suspected suicidal persons to see professional counsellors for help. He advised the students to stay away from dangerous weapons when thoughts of committing suicide beckoned on them. He added that “You don’t need any sophistication to intervene in human crisis. All you need is a good heart, the readiness and the willingness”.
The Vice-Chancellor, Prof. Joseph Ghartey Ampiah, in a speech read on his behalf, said that suicide prevention and suicidal behaviour was a key priority for the University. In line with this, he tasked the Counselling Center to deliver initiatives that would foster resilience and strengthen student relationships through Couselling and other strategies to improve mental health.
Prof. Ampiah commended the Centre for its decision to adopt the evidence-based approach recommended by the World Health Organisation to reduce suicide risk within the society. He hoped that the Centre would provide effective mental health and suicide prevention training, as well as the creation of a supportive environment, which would enable both staff and students to fulfil their potential and cope with life’s challenges. The Vice-Chancellor challenged the University community, staff of the Couselling Centre and all the psychologists in the University to research into depression and suicide.
The Dean of Educational Foundations, Prof. Eric Nyarko-Sampson, who chaired the seminar, encouraged the public to propagate the suicide prevention crusade across the country.