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Ghana Armed Forces launches Suicide Prevention Programme

Social Suicide Prevention

The Ghana Armed Forces (GAF) on Friday launched its Suicide Prevention Programme with a call on personnel to seek professional help from psychologists if they are experiencing emotional distress.

The programme, themed: “Creating Hope Through Action,” is organised by the Therapy and Wellness Department of the 37 Military Hospital to create awareness on suicide prevention in the Forces.

GAF Chief of Air Staff, Frank Hanson, said the programme was a testimony to the Force’s seriousness about the health of its personnel to be fit to defend the country against any internal and external attacks.

He said the mental health impact of military service on personnel from entry to retirement had been well established, stressing that Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) was first identified among war veterans.

Other mental health problems such as suicide, anxiety, depression, substance use disorder, and behavioural problems, including gambling and interpersonal violence, especially in their homes, had been found to be related to the traumatic exposure that the personnel encountered in their line of duty.

Globally, more than 700,000 people die by suicide every year, which means someone commits suicide every 40 seconds.

Also, 77 per cent of the suicides that occurred in 2019 were in low and middle-income countries.

In Ghana, about 1,500 suicide cases are reported annually, out of, which four are unreported, summing the number of unreported cases to almost 6,000 yearly.

Air Marshal Hanson said the Forces were working to improve the physical training that ensured fitness to perform, and the pre-deployment medical checks conducted regularly for every deployment.

“The Service recognises the deficit in the provision of psychosocial wellbeing since, for years, lots of effort has been put into place to work at bridging the gap.

“Our Chaplains and Imams have been very useful in providing some pastoral counselling services to uniformed personnel, defence civilian staff and their dependents in distress in peacetime at home and in the various theatres of operation,” he said.

The UN Department of Peace Support Operations is developing Mental Health Support Strategies for personnel on peace support operations.

Part of the strategy is meant to prevent and screen for the early identification and management of mental disorders, including PTSD.

Dr Yaw Amankwa Arthur, Deputy Director, Health Promotion, Mental Health Authority, said the number of people who attempted suicide in Ghana increased from 777 in 2020 to 902 in 2021, while those who completed suicide went up from 69 in 2020 to 86 in 2021.

He commended the Forces for the initiative and expressed optimism that the programme would cause a change in the Military community.

Lieutenant Colonel Alphonsus F. Tendeh, Principal Clinical Psychologist, 37 Military Hospital, said warning signs of suicide, included talking about dying, saying goodbye to friends and family, and mentoring strong feelings of shame or guilt must prompt the public to offer help to such people.

Dr Erica D.Dickson, Head of Department, Therapy and Wellness Department, said suicidal awareness was key in preventing the situation and stated that the Unit had intensified its interventions to manage the psychosocial problems of personnel.

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