Let’s call him Kofi. He trod the path of suicide because his mother could not accept his failure in the Senior Secondary School Certificate Examination (SSSCE).
This was in 1998, he narrated his story on Joy FM’s Super Morning Show Thursday which extensively discussed the subject of suicide. A number of university students have recently reportedly committed suicide in school.
Kofi’s mother badmouthed him to her friends so much, the constant refrain at home was that her son was a failure who would have to pull off a miracle to succeed.
He tried to move on and revealed his intention to join the military. His father supported, his mother discounted the idea, leaving him increasingly frustrated with life.
She told him, she regretted giving birth to him – words that had to his soul, the same value of a bullet.
For the teenager, failure was bad enough, mentioning it was depressing it, demonizing him for failing was a trigger for suicide.
‘Enough of the embarrassment’, he said and clinched a mental deal to end his life. He bought some cheap pills in enough quantity to choke the life out of him – and it did – well nearly.
His next moment was an exciting disappointment. He did not see angels. He saw a policeman, a reminder that he failed at the suicide, too, but this was a failure for which he is now grateful.
His father who had accepted his grades as okay but he was shocked that his son could contemplate a self-inflicted death because he did not meet his mother’s expectations in an exam.
The policeman was there to warn him that unsuccessful suicide attempts make successful jail time if the state prosecutes. If he tried it next time and fails, the state will try him and jail him.
Alive again, Kofi was eager to oblige to the policeman’s warning to him to live.
The scandal of a suicidal teenager changed things at home. And his father brought him to Accra to put the pieces of his life together. There was so much ahead of him, that failure ought not to haunt him even if his mother taunted him. He was encouraged.
Putting his act together, Kofi now is gainfully employed but nothing fills him with joy than to hear the endorsing words of his father, ‘son I am proud of you’, he remembers his now late father’s words.
If his mother is proud, then it is the world’s best-kept secret, he suggested because she has never said it. In truth, things have never been the same since the suicidal move many years ago.
The relationship between mother and son is estranged. No ‘thank yous’ from her if he offers her money or other gifts and no intimate conversations typical of a mother and son.
He is not sure if this will ever change but he acknowledges the reality that “I can’t take another woman to be my mum”.
He remembers the more exam-successful students in his neighbourhood who were made poster boys.
Well, the story has not been as predictable as the exam scores would like to make it look. Some of his mates are unemployed – for years. He has not declined to help those who are struggling, he said.
But bottomline, parents play an important role in their children’s inclination to commit suicide. They may not, of course, buy the rope or the pills but their unmitigated expectations and pressures, their posture and standards and utterances, help sell the thought – ‘why not end my life?’.
In the past 36 hours, media reports of two young people who have committed suicide have renewed public shock at what exactly is happening in the minds of the youth.
A 16-year old girl committed suicide at New Tafo in the Eastern Region. Her lifeless body was found by her mother in their kitchen last Tuesday afternoon.
Jennifer Nyarko, a Consumer Science student at the University of Ghana, allegedly jumped from the fourth floor of her Akuafo Hall. The final year female student was found lying in a pool of blood Wednesday morning.
Last month, a first-year Chemical Engineering student of the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (KNUST) also hanged herself.
According to sources, Adwoa Agyarka Anyimadu-Antwi, 18, took her life at the early hours of Friday in her room with a rope.
A clinical psychologist, Dr. Ama Edwin points to the words Kofi’s mother used to describe him as seeds of suicide that germinated over time.
‘Death and life are in the power of the tongue and those who love it will eat its fruits’ she said.
In her experience with suicides, women used softer methods like pills or slitting. Men often jump. She said there are books that teach methods of suicide and depressed youth could find this lethal information to sort themselves out permanently from temporary problems.
She warned relatives not to brush off concerns raised by a relative who appears unusually quiet or depressed.
‘Give them the opportunity to open up… the more they externalise it, the less likely they are to commit suicide’ she advised.