Train mental health first aiders at all levels: Rev. Albright Asiwome Banibensu

BY: Blessing Aglago
Hopelessness is the main thing that pushes people to die or have thoughts of committing suicide.

The former Vice-President of the Ghana Psychological Association, Rev. Albright Asiwome Banibensu, has proposed that mental health first aiders must be trained at all levels to provide help to anyone that needs psychological help.

He explained that just as people were trained to treat people who sustained physical injuries, more people should be trained to offer psychological aid to schools, organisations and communities.
“This is because in some instances, by the time the affected person is sent to see the professional, it may be quite late. There should be psychological first aiders at all levels. As a country, we also need to take mental health seriously”.

Rev. Banibensu disclosed this in an interview with The Mirror to commemorate World Suicide Prevention Day, which is being observed around the globe today, September 10.
He again proposed that every Ghanaian should go for a mental health check-up at least once in every two months.

Rev. Banibensu explained that some causes of suicide could be due to a convergent of factors such as genetic, psychological, social, some cultural practices, trauma and loss (romantic relationships).
“Hopelessness is the main thing that pushes people to die by suicide or have suicidal thoughts.

Depression is the most common psychiatric disorder in people that can make them prefer to die by suicide). For instance, people often cite Japan’s long tradition of “honourable suicide” as a reason for the high rate in the country.

According to Rev. Banibensu, Ghana has been ranked the 64th country with high cases of suicide by the World Health Rankings, explaining that “one out of 10 adults in rural communities have thoughts of committing suicide. Among junior high schools, three out of 10 reported attempted suicide over the past 12 months, while two out of 10 reported intentionally injuring themselves or poisoning themselves at least in their lifetime.

Among the hearing-impaired adolescents, one out of 10 reported attempting suicide in the past 12 months, while three out of ten police officers in urban communities admitted having suicidal thoughts over the last 12 months.

No blame games
Rev. Banibensu stressed the need for family and friends who had lost their relatives to suicide not to blame themselves.

“It is important for family and friends to know that it was not their fault. Something happened that made them take such a decision. Victims that have suicidal thoughts are put on medication and counselling when noted early. Any family or friend that feels stigmatised about the loss of their relative due to suicide should seek professional help,” he added.

Society’s role
The society, he said, should be more concerned about one another, be kind, more cohesive and know that everyone might be experiencing some form of distress. Hence, we should not overly push people such that they end up doing things they shouldn’t do to themselves.

“More men attempt or die from suicide than women. Women may open up and talk about their challenges and seek help while men take action of committing,” he explained.

Rev. Banibensu urged Parliament to decriminalise suicide in the country.
“Attempted suicide is a crime in Ghana, we should rather focus on the conditions that push people to attempt suicide. People who often make suicide jokes should be taken seriously. Comments such as I am tired of life; I don’t think you will see me again, among others. Such comments are very dangerous”.

He encouraged individuals to get close to these people and find out how best they can be of help.

World Suicide Prevention Day
The former Vice President of the Ghana Psychological Association said the association had initiated a project dubbed 10-P Project.
The project mandates members to create awareness and educate 10 people who will also educate 10 others.

World Suicide Prevention Day was introduced in 2003. It is commemorated on September 10 each year as part of efforts to reduce the stigma around talking about suicide and also raise awareness of suicide prevention.

The day is symbolised by a yellow ribbon, which is worn by people to help spread the word that by speaking about suicide prevention, lives can be saved.

This year, the international theme is: “Creating Hope through Action.” The theme was coined in 2021 through to 2023. Its aim is to remind people that there is always an alternative to suicide and that people’s actions, no matter how big or small, may provide hope to those who are struggling.