Causes of Suicide: It Is More Complex Than That, Dr. Dzorgbo – Says Kwame Okoampa-Ahoofe, Jnr., Ph.D.

Kwame Okoampa-Ahoofe, Jnr, Ph.D.

Dr. Dan-Bright Dzorgbo is quite right in pointing to acute social inequity, particularly the exponentially widening economic gap between the rich and poor, as a major cause of the rising spate of suicides in the country (See ” ‘Social Inequality Is The Cause Of Suicide’ – Sociologist” Ghana News Agency/ 1/1/14). But, of course, that is not the entire story. It is just the strikingly obvious.

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What struck me as rather quaint, though, was the call by Dr. Dzorgbo, Head of the Department of Sociology at the country’s flagship academy, the University of Ghana, for faculty of major institutions like his own to “conduct research into [this very disturbing problem in order to] ascertain the facts.” Rather quaint, because one would have expected the Legon sociologist to have at least partially researched this problem before going public with his “expert’s” observations. This is what scholars and intellectuals working at major higher educational institutions like University of Ghana do.

And to be certain, there are many Western research-grant foundations and institutions that may be interested and eager to fund such research, provided that academics like Dr. Dzorgbo can competently demonstrate in research proposals submitted to these foundations that they have the requisite research methological skills to produce worthwhile results. For, believe me, in an effectively globalized twenty-first century environment, no problem in any corner of the world can be said to bear no organic relevance to the rest.

In other words, from Marshall McLuhan’s 1970s revolutionary concept of the “Global Village,” as I frequently tell my print-journalism students, the world has effectively become “a single city block.” Put another way, we are presently more intimately interconnected worldwide than ever before.

At any rate, unlike what the Legon sociologist would have his audiences believe, the problem of suicide is as psychological as it is socioeconomic. What this means is that any serious research conducted into the problem ought to, perforce; entail the collaborative efforts of sociologists, economists, psychologists and psychiatrists. This is what the leading faculty members of our major academies ought to be doing. And that is why I was quite elated to hear Vice-Chancellor Aryeetey announce sometime in the middle of last year, or thereabouts, that the University of Ghana was going to be re-oriented towards the conduct of high-end research. The timely implementation of the findings of any such major research, as may be undertaken by the faculty of Ghana’s flagship academy, is also another subject to be taken for discussion in due course.

Indeed, there are far too many factors which account for the apparent rise in the rate of suicides in the country than the sheer fact of the gaping economic divide between the haves and the have-nots. And I am not even certain that the problem is a recent phenomenon. In fact, my own untested hypothesis is that many more Ghanaians may have committed suicide during the Rawlings-chaperoned “revolutionary” period between 1982 and 1992, except that the terror-charged climate of rigidly guarded state control of information made it extremely difficult to access the suicide rate then. And, of course, even in 1983, for instance, when a hitherto unprecedented famine struck the country, there were reported by the largely government-owned daily newspapers, widespread incidents of murder-suicides, mainly involving urban-resident mothers who were finding it extremely difficult to feed themselves and their children.

It does seem, the world over, that the widening gap between the filthy rich and the dirt poor is likely to get even bigger. Not even such long-declared socialist, or state-planned, economies as China and Russia could legitimately be said to have been able to stem this traditionally capitalist socioeconomic tide. The solution may thus be clearly seen to lie in the need for the central government to massively expand the capacity of social services as a viable means of protecting society’s most vulnerable.

In terms of the adequate provision of social services, I have in mind Akufo-Addo’s policy manifesto of free education, affordable housing and healthcare. Also, the massive expansion of the Kufuor-initiated school-feeding program and adequate supplementary financial support for the clinically certified invalid and superannuated, as well as low-income mothers.

On the cultural front, such slavo-parasitic practice as Trokosi, which is widely known to systematically rob its victims of their self-worth, and self-esteem, may well lead these victims to suicidal thoughts. We also need to train a critical mass of suicidologists, clinical psychologists and psychiatrists for employment in our clinics and hospitals, if we are to be able to promptly and successfully trouble-shoot the problem and opportunely come up with the most effective and enduring solutions.

Kwame Okoampa-Ahoofe, Jr., Ph.D. Department of English Nassau Community College of SUNY Garden City, New York


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