Walter Owusu Writes: Mainstream Media is Responsible for Rampant Suicides in Ghana



There is no doubt that the rate at which Ghanaians are committing suicide has really skyrocketed over the past few months. About two weeks ago, myjoyonline reported a suicide case involving the daughter of a parliamentarian. It was obviously a big deal because it involved the daughter of a bigwig in our society. A week later, the same joy news portal reported another suicide case involving a Legon student who jumped to her death at the 4th floor of the Akuapim Hall. Another middle aged man from the Achimota vicinity was also reported to have committed suicide just last week. What really struck my attention regarding this domino effect of suicide cases was when citifmonline reported that a 30-year old man from Half-Assini has allegedly committed suicide.

Suicide is a very common topic in western world and I believe it is safe to say that our friends from the west tend to commit suicide more than us (Africans). It seems like taking one’s own life is becoming a norm in our Ghanaian society. Many people have commented on this issue including John Dumelo, a household actor who had some few words to share. He suggested that “we should open up more to friends and family who are troubled”. Indeed venting to others and seeking help can change this unbecoming trend but our media coverage on such issues needs to be checked. Media coverage on suicide cases is rather promoting self-killing. Mainstream media plays a vital role in our society. Nevertheless, the way the news media cover tragedies in modern day Ghana has a big impact on young minds.

Dr. Park Dietz, a well-known American criminal profiler who is also a consultant for popular TV show “Law & Order” has warned about coverage on crimes and suicides. Excessive coverage on crimes may lead young people to go out and commit copycat crimes. When people are constantly exposed to excessive coverage of a crime, they tend to replicate those crimes according to Dr. Dietz. He simply asserts that “human beings are natural mimics who unconsciously mimic others”. Sometimes the media can amplify issues just by the way they report these issues. Giving out irrelevant details about a crime may help people who are willing to commit such crimes. When criminals are glamorised and given such attention, their acts become admirable by certain people who tend to follow in the footsteps of the “celebrity-crime”. Dr. Dietz also makes some reflections on the reportage of suicide as well and calls it the suicide contagion.

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