Dr Johnny Andoh-Arthur, Senior Lecturer University of Ghana, a Social and Community Psychologist, has called for the need to empower media personnel to report accurately on suicides.
Dr Andoh-Arthur, also the Founder of Community and Life Empowerment Advocacy Network, Ghana (CLEAN Ghana) University of Ghana Chapter, said this was necessary as the style of reporting on suicide by the media rather gave people ideas on what to do when they attempt suicide.
The Psychologist made the call in an interview with the Ghana News Agency (GNA) following the amendment of the Criminal Offenses Act of 1960, which criminalized attempted suicide in the country.
The Private Members Bill was laid in Parliament on August 2, 2021, by Mr Frank Annor-Dompreh, the Majority Chief Whip on behalf of the Sponsors – Mr Kwame Anyimadu-Antwi, the Chairman, Constitutional, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs Committee, and Mr Bernard Ahiafor, Ranking Member of the Committee, under Article 106(1) of the 1992 Constitution.
The objective of the Bill is to amend the Criminal Offences Act, of 1960 (Act 29) to decriminalize attempted suicide and provide for related matters.
Clause (1) of the Bill seeks to repeal subsection (2) of section 57 of the Criminal Offences Act, 1960 (Act 29).
Whereas Clause (2) is intended as a consequential amendment that seeks to expand the interpretation of mental disorder as contained in section 97 of the Mental Health Act, 2012 (Act 846) to provide for access to mental health care service survivors of suicide attempts.
According to a 2021 survey conducted by the World Health Organisation (WHO), seven persons per 10,000 people within the Ghanaian population died by suicide in the year 2019 in the country.
Dr Andoh-Arthur said most of these suicide attempts were due to stress and therefore detailed narration of how and what tools a victim used in news reporting may encourage others in some emotional difficulty to commit the same.
He said no one in his or her right senses would want to attempt suicide and therefore decriminalizing the act would rather pave the way for the victim to seek psychological assistance to overcome the difficulty.
“People suffering from emotional trauma, psychological and cognitive pain need solutions to their problems to bounce back to their normal selves, that is what society has to offer,” the Psychologist stated.
“Therefore, little attention and care, shown to such people in the form of hugs, spending good time together, talking about their problems, and sometimes monetary support can help their conditions.
“We have been able to help people who were suicidal by hugging themselves, and we have called them to show affection and little monetary help, and now they are doing well,” he added.
Dr Andoh-Arthur, thus, commended parliament for decriminalizing the act and urged the President to assent to the bill on time to be able to treat the matter as a social problem and not a criminal offence.
He further appealed to Ghanaians to desist from stigmatizing victims of failed suicide but rather give them comfort and show them affection.
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