Invest in mental health to reduce suicides – Dr Osafo

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A clinical psychologist and suicidologist at the University of Ghana, Dr. Joseph Osafo, has bemoaned the lack of seriousness in terms of government investments and support for mental health.

According to him, this situation has contributed to the increasing trend of suicide in the country.

He said although suicide in the country is largely under-reported, many of it could have been prevented if there was a proper and effective mental health system in the country.

“Generally, it is so sad that Ghana we haven’t taken mental health seriously. The field is still understaffed, under budgeted among other things. We even train people here, the clinical psychologists we train for the Ghana Health Service are not paid well then you have them abandon posts. They have left so you go to some hospitals and you don’t even have a psychologist. I think generally, what we have to do is to take mental health seriously.”

“The second thing is, what we have to do is to take counseling in our schools seriously. I will tell all school counseling and placement centers that they have to be a bit more proactive. They have to wait for students, asking them to come. Sometimes it is important to take the help to the person, and go talking to them.”

Dr. Osarfo said public education must be increased to enable them to identify signs of suicide in suicidal people. He said the public must be entreated to offer comfort and support for people who go through traumatic experiences to avoid pushing them into entertaining thoughts of suicide.

“For something that is quite traumatic, you have to get closer to the person. When you see them going through distress, go ahead and ask them, are you thinking of killing yourself? It is not true that if you ask the person, you are encouraging the person to commit suicide.”

“We need attitudinal change, we need more of psycho-education, public education, we need to invest more into public health, we need to invest into research, and I want to call on all business people out there, drop money and let us get research ongoing. When you look at other places, individuals who really want to get to understand this and get statistics, sponsor it.”

“We may need a policy; we are trying to get our findings out. We need a serious public policy on this and open up to others to call for assistance when they are in trouble, for instance, if there is a toll-free line they have to call 24/7,” he said.

There have been as many as four suicide-related deaths reports in about three weeks, with three of them being of students.

Although most suicides in the country go unreported, officials say the recent trend of suicides reported in the public domain call for more attention and urgent steps to arrest the situation.

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