Quite recently, there have been a lot of suicides in the country. When the first one that went public happened, we were all quite a bit shocked but then, we said it was one of those things. Then, there was another one. We were shocked again but then, Ghanaians being Ghanaians, we took it in stride. Then, there was the third. That was when alarm bells started ringing. And there were even more. Ghanaians again being Ghanaians, we began to find reasons and began to blame people and things for the suicides. Ghanaians love playing the blame game. It is something we do quite well. Very well actually. People began to attribute the suicides to all manner of things and persons. Listing them here would be an exercise in futility.
There are a lot of reasons why a person would take his own life. Social factors, personal issues and so on. A lot of people attributed these recent happenings to spiritual reasons and evil spirits. Whilst I do not dispute the fact that they may be right, I also do not claim to be sensitive to the happenings of the spirit world. If someone saw that these suicides have spiritual roots, I cannot refute the person. I’m not sensitive to the spiritual but I understand very well the physical. Most of the people who have taken their own lives recently are people who fall within my age bracket.
The issue is this; people pay a lot of attention to things they cannot even see and do not even hope to understand and yet, they ignore all the things which are right in front of their very noses. What do I mean? People don’t just up and kill themselves. They display signs. Their temperament becomes different. No matter how hard they cover it, it’s still there, quite visible for all to see. But no, we are too absorbed in our own selves to even realize that something is going on with our neighbour.
I’m a teenager and I think speaking candidly, that at one time or the other, every teenager has suicidal thoughts. Saying I’ve never had any of those would be a very big lie. Being a teenager is a very difficult part of one’s life. We are at that point where deep within we know we are not fully equipped to face the world yet somehow, we don’t understand why our parents want to shield us from it. We have our own ideas of how the world is or should be and woe betide you if what you say even varies slightly from what we have pictured in our minds. This is the period when despite what we say, we need our parents the most. However, this happens to be the time when our parents are scarcely around. We see them early in the morning before they leave for work and the only reason we might see them in the evening is because we did not go to bed early.
They are so busy gathering funds to take care of us. I don’t begrudge them that. It is a necessary thing. But, what is the use of all that money you’re amassing if the person you’re getting it for just wakes up one day and puts his or her neck through the noose and kicks the stool on which he or she is standing? Our parents have to pay more attention to us. Truthfully, half the time they don’t understand what we are saying or talking about but it is a comfortable feeling to know that, do I ever have the need to prattle endlessly about something which has no bearing on anything important, there’s the ear of the person I love most in the world to listen.
Most of the times, we think the person just puts his neck in the noose and then kicks the chair. We have no idea that, we are the hangman. Sometimes, our reactions to certain issues make people want to die. There’s a little incident that happens. Fine, for a while it’s funny. But then, we extend it beyond the time we should. We ridicule people about their imperfections. We insult people with situations in their lives they have no control over. We call people names that would hurt even the most unemotional person and yet, when the person puts his head in the noose and kicks the stool, we begin blaming that river god or the old lady in the house minding her own business. Sometimes, we drive people to suicide albeit unconsciously. We have to make a conscious effort not to hurt others feelings. We are human and hurting each other’s feelings is part of our make-up. Sometimes however, the extents to which we go are uncalled for. The things we say and do are things we wouldn’t like to be said or done to us and yet we do them to others. Reducing suicide levels is not a job for the government or for any big organisation. It’s the job of you and I. Change begins with us.
You might not be one of those people who makes it their agenda to hurt the feelings of others but you also drive people to the noose. How? Quite simple; you do nothing. You might ask; how does the fact that I do nothing have anything to do with someone hanging themselves? Good question. It has everything to do with it. Your indifference is a sign that you do not care. You realise that a friend of yours has been depressed for quite some time. Let’s not go as far as depressed. Let’s just say he or she has been keeping more and more to himself or herself lately and that is quite unusual of the person. Do you try to find out why? No. Do you try to investigate? You just bask in yourself and say it is none of your business. Even asking someone a simple “how are you” is an indicator that you care and might prevent someone from picking that rope up. Stop being selfish. And here, I use selfish with the full knowledge that it is a strong word. Cease being selfish. Care about the people around you. Care about what goes on in other’s lives. Be the reason why someone refuses to use rope to end his problems.
Most people kill themselves because they are of the view that when they do, their suffering would end. They would no longer feel the hostility it is they feel every day. After all, a dead person has no emotion. And truthfully, we lend more truth to that belief each passing day. There’s a saying that goes; “When you see your neighbour’s beard on fire, fetch water and put it by our own.” That’s codswallop. I say, “When you see your neighbour’s beard on fire, fetch water and pour it on it.” That way, the flames would not be tempted to leap into your own beard.
In the wake of these events, Ghanaians again being Ghanaians have begun to make light of an issue which should not be taken lightly. I have seen a wide variety of jokes on social media that I must admit are funny but are uncalled for and simply tasteless. For once, let us tamp down the Ghanaian in us and treat the situation with the seriousness with which it should be treated. This is no laughing matter and therefore the mirth we seem to get from it is uncalled for and misplaced.
We may never really know the true reasons why those people decided to take their own lives. We cannot bring them back and crying over spilled milk has never yielded any results apart from wasting a lot of time. Let us however make an effort to prevent the milk from spilling again. Let us make that conscious effort to be our brother’s keeper and to try to take action when we see something out of the usual happening.
Should you ever happen to have suicidal thoughts, do not be quiet. Seek out someone and talk to them. Do not talk to people who have no experience and might even buy you rope. Talk to your parents, your family, a psychologist, an elderly person. Anyone. Let it out. Suicide is not an option. Stay blessed.