Suicide is one of the most terrible thoughts that can ever cross the mind of an individual. Suicide is the result of a concurrence of genetic, psychological, social and other risk factors.
- Why suicide?
- What are the risk factors / causes of suicide?
- How to prevent cases of suicide
- How and why the citizens and government of a country should be involved in the prevention or reduction of suicide.
Suicide is the act of taking one’s own life or causing one’s own death. But there is more to it than taking one’s own life.
Suicide comes in various ways or forms: attempted suicide, homicide suicide, assisted suicide and so on. The risk factors for suicide go beyond mental disorder. There are several other factors which may make an individual want to commit suicide.
- Psychosocial factors (depression, anxiety, loss of pleasure in life, agitation, rigid thinking, lack of social support et cetera)
- Socio-economic factors (unemployment, financial crisis, poverty)
- Substance abuse or misuse
- Medical conditions
- Trauma, personal issues or the history of suicide in an individual’s family can also be risk factors
- The media: People seem to imitate what is being portrayed on the internet, television and other media. Videos of how suicide is done, viewed by vulnerable individuals, gives these people avenues to commit suicide. Not only clips, but feature films which depict such actions can also influence vulnerable individuals and incline them to attempt suicide.
- Other factors include bullying, rape and child abuse.
Detailed research shows that approximately 0.5 to 1.4% of people worldwide die by suicide annually. The mortality rate is 11.6 per 100,000 people per year. Every 40 seconds someone commits suicide somewhere in the world, with devastating and far-reaching effects on families and friends.
Compounding the problem
Suicide led to 824,000 deaths in 2013. Globally, it is the tenth cause of death as of 2009. And for every suicide that results in death there are between ten and 40 attempted suicides.
The rate of suicide differs significantly from country to country. As of 2016 Ghana’s suicide rate was 5.4% per 100,000 people, an increase of 1.89% on 2015. Of the 800,000 people yearly worldwide who die through suicide, most are suffering from depression.
The most common ways of committing suicide in Ghana are by taking poison and by hanging. Most victims of suicide consume pesticides and other chemicals known to be toxic.
Roughly 80% of suicide victims have attempted suicide in the past and have become vulnerable to the idea of committing suicide.
We have work to do
How are the government and citizens involved in decreasing the rate of suicide? The idea of suicide cannot be eradicated from society or across the world, but it can be reduced with the help of every individual and civic organisation.
The government and citizens of countries across the globe have a responsibility to work to decrease suicide.
- Governments can intervene to help reduce and prevent suicide by creating a national strategy or agenda and a clear commitment to suicide prevention.
- Restrict access to most common means of committing suicide
- Social support within communities is also a responsibility of both citizens and governments.
- Vulnerable individuals can feel better if given attention, making them feel safe.
- Governments also have a responsibility to improve the national economy to the point where the poorest are able to afford basic needs. Making jobs available is also a responsibility of governments that can help reduce suicide.
- Health workers also have a responsibility to protect and provide appropriate medication for mentally ill people who are vulnerable to thoughts of suicide.
- The media also have a role in reducing suicide. This includes educating the public about suicide, risk factors and where to seek help, avoiding sensationalism and glamorisation, and avoiding detailed descriptions of acts of suicide.
- Governments can help media with these efforts by releasing public service announcements which raise awareness, identify and treat mental/substance abuse disorders as early as possible, and ensure those vulnerable to suicide receive the care they need before it is too late.
- Mental health and alcohol policies should be integrated into overall health-care services. Governments should ensure sufficient funding to improve these services.
- NGOs can help raise awareness to help reduce acts of suicide. Every citizen is involved in this agenda, and every family as well.
It is our collective gain to save lives!
Palgrave Boakye-Danquah, executive director, Kandifo Institute