“Ghanaians don’t get depressed,” This comment had me laughing early last week. “it’s americans like you who flip out over everything.”
First of all, I am very much a Ghanaian. I simply open myself up to other cultures 😛
Second, just cuz I’ve had a very interesting past and it’s scarred me a bit doesn’t mean I’m mentally unsound. Why should it take a crazy person to think about steps to prevent suicide
? I find it odd that the second I try to talk about rape
, abuse, suicide or depression
, it becomes a game of driving nails into dry concrete with me bare fingers!
Third, dealing with my issues shouldn’t stop me from facing up to reality and saying, I want to do something about this. Doesn’t have to stop me from starting whatever movement I want or lobbying my local MP or regional health director for infrastructure I believe should be in place. And now that that rant is over, I can get down to the business off the day.
What I’d like to do today is debunk a few myths about self harm
and suicide. I can’t cover them all and I’m not going to explain what they are. Links below should be sufficient methinks….
Myth: Suicides don’t occur in Ghana.
Fact: Suicide occurs all over the world. In fact, it is the 10th leading cause of death globally. Over a million people commit suicide every year all over the world. Sadly, no one seems to be collecting data on suicide in Ghana and most of Africa. We do not as yet have the necessary systems in place for reporting and recording of suicide attempts and successes. The map above is as accurate as the WHO can make it. Without actual data, there is nothing they or any other organisation can do.
To save face, families in Ghana bribe police officers and medical practitioners into changing the cause of death. This is most especially so when they are christian. As such, the police and hospitals here very rarely report such cases.
Myth: People hurt themselves or attempt suicide for attention.
Fact: Au contraire. People who self harm are simply trying to feel, something anything. They usually are detached from this world and feel they are alone, unloved, repressed. Cutting, burning, they turn to pain as they cannot feel happiness, love. Other times, they are punishing themselves for some crime they perceive they committed. A lot of people suffering from PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) will do this. Quite often they have suffered physical or sexual abuse
and are unable to deal with the psychological fallout. The result therefore is a need to externalize the pain, to “make it real.”
Myth: People who talk about suicide are looking for attention.
Fact: People who talk about suicide are reaching out for help. They’ve thought about it and are scared that they’ll actually go through with it.
Myth: If you’re depressed, just make yourself happy. Snap out of it.
Fact: If it was that easy, your friend, family member, colleague wouldn’t have the cuts, burns and bruises they do, and most importantly? They wouldn’t be thinking of ending it.
Myth: Suicide occurs without warming.
Fact: Usually, suicide victims will leave some sort of clue as to what they intend to do. There is always some verbal or behavioural hint. Most often though, these clues are ignored or not taken seriously.
Myth: Asking someone if they are thinkingof suicide will plant the idea in their head.
Fact: Talking about suicide will NOT give a person who is not considering it ideas. If you feel the need to ask someone this question, then most likely they’ve left clues that led you to that conclusion. Asking them will not make them go out and do it. A lot of suicidal persons will be relieved to have someone ask them about it. It’s a huge burden to bear by oneself and someone who has been struggling with the urge and wants a friend to talk to will actually be grateful for the opportunity to share some of their fears.
Myth: Once a person has attempted suicide, he or she will never try it again.
Fact: If your friend or loved one has made the attempt before, please keep an eye out, especially when they are under stressful conditions. People who make attempts and fail are most likely to come up with a different plan of action, with the sole aim of actually going through with it. Perhaps the last time you were lucky enough to grab him before he ran under a bus. Well next time, perhaps your friend would have researched on the number of pills he needs to swallow and would have made sure to lock his door.
Please do not treat any threat of suicide lightly. If you suspect someone of having suicidal thoughts, talk to them. Find out if they have a definite plan. Someone who has gone so far as to set out a plan (or several plans) has had a lot of time to prepare and could take action at any minute. Try to get them to talk about their problems and see if you can get them to go see a counselor. Look for signs of self harm. Usual suspects are long sleeves (even in hot weather) to hide ligatures on the arms and a reluctance to dress in shorts/skirts. When your friend, daughter, colleague suddenly changes their style of dressing to cover up, it’s usually a sure sign of distress.
Sources and links:
Self harm on the BBC