A Professor at the Department of Psychology at the University of Ghana, Charity Sylvia Akotia is calling for the government to make amendments to the portions of the constitution which criminalise suicide.
The academic highlighted that legislation under the 1960 Criminal Code Act 29, Section 57 discourages individuals struggling with suicidal tendencies from seeking help.
She added that the aforementioned problem would actually increase the likelihood that the suicidal person would die.
Prof Akotia made these statements on Thursday, March 9, at an inaugural lecture at the University of Ghana dubbed ‘When Life Becomes Unbearable: Dynamics and Complexities of Suicidal Behaviour and Prevention in a Cultural Context.’
The professor proffered that decriminalising suicide attempts was possible stakeholders intervened and provided the best care possible via the legally required healthcare facilities that deal with public health emergencies.
She in turn explained that the threat of prosecution if one were to fail in their attempt to end their life would drive one to take extreme measures instead of making room for a change of heart.
Furthermore, Prof Akotia pointed out that suicide is frequently committed by those who exhibit suicidal behavior and are afflicted with a mental condition.
She added that people who often consider suicide perceive it to be the only option when they are faced with a situation in which they feel overwhelmed by challenges and have run out of other viable options.
Moreover, research has shown that 93 percent of individuals who attempted suicide did so while suffering from a mental disorder.
Also, the World Health Organisation (WHO) disclosed in 2021 that over 700,000 individuals worldwide take their lives each year, and for every suicide death, there are at least 20 suicide attempts.
Again, it has been revealed by WHO that two of the most successful suicide prevention strategies were early detection and early intervention.
The professor eventually made mentioned that socio-cultural factors such as relationship breakups, neglect, hopelessness, and other emotional tendencies also influenced people to commit suicide.
Thus, she advocated for a support structure for such [suicidal] individuals and urged the establishment of a national suicide prevention center to gather data and utilize it to prepare for suicide prevention initiatives.
Prof Akotia also beseeched government officials to take a public health approach and concentrate on suicide prevention measures.
She further added that religious organisations can contribute by offering assistance and encouragement to those who try suicide.
She advocated the need to educate about suicide and raise awareness of the issue in the various communities in the country.
She also implored the media to use caution in their coverage of suicide-related issues since it encourages individuals to imitate such behaviours.
Vice Chancellor, Prof Nana Aba Appiah Amfo expressed excitement about Prof Akotia’s speech.
Prof Appiah shared with the gathering points she had taken from the delivery and ways in which she will apply them in her life going forward.
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