The Mental Health Authority says the wave of suicides sweeping across the country is the result of a breakdown of the social support system.
A statement by Chief Executive of the Authority, Dr Akwasi Osei, also faulted counselling centres in schools across the country and has called for “a national agenda” to stem the growing spate of suicides.
“The Authority finds the [suicide] trend disturbing and considers it a failure of the society to support its youth by ensuring that efficient and accessible support systems are in place to help build the mental fortitude of the youth and students in particular in their times of weakness and susceptibility,” said the statement released on Sunday.
Although suicides are not new in Ghana, over the last three weeks there have been at least five suicide cases, two of which have occurred at universities — the University of Ghana and the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (KNUST).
Dr Osei blamed the worrying trend on an ineffective counselling system in schools and the stigmatisation of people who seek help from these centres.
“It is important that as a society, we pay particular attention to young people because those who attempt suicide are more likely to finally die by their own hands, whether by intent or accident,” the statement admonished.
“It is about time we looked out for each other as a society, particularly our youth. It may not be easy to conclude that a student is suicidal, but if you notice that a student suddenly becomes a lot more reserved than they usually are, it should raise a red flag, and you may be doing some good service to the person if you contact the Counselling Service in their school or call the Mental Health Authority on 0206814666/0503444793 for a session with an expert,” the statement said.
The MHA has also called on lawmakers to decriminalise attempted suicide in the statutes of Ghana if the fight against suicide is to be won.
“Attempted suicide is not a criminal issue. Neither is it a moral issue or spiritual problem. It is simply a cry for help to resolve psychosocial issues and therefore more appropriately is a medical problem,” Dr Osei notes.
Decriminalising attempted suicide, Dr Osei surmises, will give the youth and people who have suicidal thoughts an opportunity to talk about what they feel without having to look over their shoulders or having to think they will be prosecuted should they talk about their suicide tendencies.
The Mental Health Authority also called on legislators to pass the legislative instrument to the Mental Health Act, 2012 (Act 846) to enable the Mental Health Authority to institute its programmes of massive public education and mental health promotion.
“Let this unfortunate situation galvanise us to come together as a nation to fight the canker,” said the statement.