Even though it occurs frequently, suicide is barely spoken about, like many other things in Ghanaian society. We assume that if we pretend it doesn’t exist, the problem will go away when all it truly does is make it fester.
There are about 1500 suicides in Ghana every year. This number represents a 7% loss in GDP. You may not care about the emotional trauma to their families but since suicides affect your finances too, perhaps it is time to talk about it.
My first encounter with suicide was in high school when a girl tried to kill herself by ingesting bleach. Everyone was confused because she had never showed any signs of distress and seemed well-liked. I mean, in high school what was more important than being liked? Unknown to all of us however, she had been struggling with body image issues. All the friendly “you have bodyoo”, the snide “obolo” and the anxious “so how will you get a boy?” had finally gotten to her. Her bubbly personality had been hiding her anguish until the day she decided to free herself from the pain.
Suicidal people don’t always look gloomy or talk about killing themselves. They may be adept at pretending to be fine. Despite battling with feelings of inferiority or hopelessness they may function well at work, at school or in the communities they’re in.
Unfortunately there are no hotlines or institutions in Ghana that help with suicidal thoughts or feelings. This means that we have to be each other’s keeper. It’s okay to yell out the occasional “kwasia!” in greeting but if that is how you always refer to that particular person, please check yourself. Your remarks may be made in jest but that doesn’t mean they wouldn’t trigger suicidal thoughts. Make an effort to smile at your colleagues and that woman always staring at you as you hurry off to get on a trotro. Extend a helping hand to your dad when possible. You don’t have to be in constant communication with your friends but when you remember they exist, a “WYD?” text never hurts.
Science and religion both agree on the positive effects of altruism so these actions will also help you feel better about yourself, thereby reducing the prospect of you trying to seek freedom in death.
PS: According to Section 57, Clause 2 of Ghana’s 1960 criminal code, suicide is illegal. This means anyone who unsuccessfully attempts suicide will face jail time. I think this is messed up. What can we do about it?
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