Tag: Sam Sarpong


Fade To Black: Suicide Among Ghanaians

PANews_P-083e410e-484a-4fb1-97b5-ae8691cebef5_I1Sam Sarpong was a young man who tirelessly worked his way into the fashion and entertainment realms of Hollywood, his face recognisable in fashion shows, MTV or BET – one of the most established bright Black Stars on the diaspora. On the surface, he was a man living the dream. And yet, as October 2015 drew to a close, this same gentleman found himself on a bridge in Pasadena, California. After a deliberation of 7 hours, and despite the pleas of family and law enforcement, Sam’s world literally came crashing down.

After the initial shock of the premature loss of one of Ghana’s brightest exports, came the questions. Why would he do it? He had it all, right? He had no reason to, right? Then came the whispers – it’s such an un-Ghanaian thing to do. Suicide is a selfish act – how could he do it when his family loved him? But you see, that is where a big problem comes in – when we attempt to apply reason and rationale to one of humanity’s most irrational of acts.

It is the incomprehensible nature of how a human being who lives to exist would find themselves at a point where they would willingly extinguish the flame of their own lives, which grants suicide an element of mystery. Those who have ever been truly suicidal will identify with the gravity, the darkness, the single-mindedness of suicidal ideation. They will note how life seems at a literal dead end. They will tell you how things become so desperate, all they can think about is release, and relief, and escape.

 

More than 800 000 people die by suicide worldwide every year – around one person every 40 seconds. alone-for-the-holidaysSuicide is much more rampant in Ghana and among Ghanaians than you would initially expect or believe. Mental health experts estimate that in Ghana, five or more people take their own lives each day. Available statistics on suicide in Ghana indicate that Greater Accra region has the highest number of deaths by suicide. The network for Anti-Suicide & Suicide Prevention found 531 people between the age of 9-19 kill themselves in Ghana every year. Approximately 1500 cases of suicide occur in Ghana annually – constituting about 7% loss in GDP. And those are just the reported cases, with it being suggested that there are four unreported cases for every reported case – so you’re looking at more than 6000 suicides in Ghana each year.

But, anybody who attempts to commit suicide in Ghana commits a criminal act (as per section 57, clause 2 of the Criminal Offences Act of Ghana). The Mental Health Society of Ghana (MEHSOG), has asked the Constitutional Review Committee and the Ghana Law Reform Commission to revise this. People who attempt to commit suicide likely suffer some form of mental disorder and should rather be referred to the appropriate mental health facility for counselling and treatment.

According to Mavis Darko-Gyekye, a lecturer in social work at the University of Ghana: “Suicidal behaviour and threats of suicide have been ignored in the country even though they exist. These are issues that no one talks about because suicide is considered a taboo.” Because they are not talked about, the silence engineers an environment where warning signs are missed and alarm bells fail to be heard. And as I have stated in previous articles, there is a general taboo which surrounds mental health as a whole, which means that there are so many out there who do not seek the help they need – simply because it is not available, or because they believe nobody cares. Mavis Darko-Gyekye goes on to say how “Unfortunately, we are training personnel that are not being utilized because people do not want to be associated with anything that would lead to associating them with mental illness.”

 

o-DEPRESSION-BLACK-facebookSuicide is still deemed a taboo and abomination among Ghanaian ethnic groups and faiths. It can be deemed a ‘bad death’, and social reproach can be observed by behaviours such as discouraging prolonged and public mourning, and in some places even observing decontamination rituals to purge families or communities of the taboo of suicide. Dali (2007, cited in Adinkrah, 2011) has found out that among some groups in Northern Ghana, when suicide occurs inside a house or an apartment, the corpse must be removed through a window or a special aperture in the wall. This is because conveying the body through the doorway permanently desecrates the doorway for the living. In this way, Ghanaian culture attempts to discourage people from taking their own lives.

Despite the taboos and intolerance, suicide still plays out. The vast majority of those who complete suicide amongst Ghanaians are male (Adinkrah, 2010) – indicative of the cultural finding that males are less likely to discuss their issues and find it feminine to seek social support. Literature also shows that males are more likely to employ ‘immediate-lethal’ methods such as gunshots while females prefer less violent methods such as taking poison or overdosing on drugs. Dr Dan-Bright Dzorgbo, Head of Sociology at the University of Ghana, has noted that the suicide trend is increasing in Ghana, believing that social inequality and the wide gap between rich and poor exacerbates issues people may have in terms of dealing with poverty and trying to move up the social ladder.

So many issues. So many contributory factors. So many lives being lost. And yet the silence surrounding suicide and the apathy regarding its prevention is a lullaby leading many to cut their lives short. We must fight the tide which is causing many Ghanaian lives to fade to black too soon. It’s time to break the silence and shine a light on the subject – who knows how many lives will be saved if we do so.

Feeling depressed or suicidal? Don’t suffer alone – please contact Samaritans.org or if you’re in Ghana, contact 233 244 846 701 (24/7 hotline)

 

By Dr. Jermaine Bamfo (@Dr_Jabz27)

Ghanaian Celebrity: June Sarpong

This month’s profile is a TV/radio personality who was at the forefront of urban youth TV programmes during my teenage years.  In era where “dark skin” women were not shown much love on TV she was a pioneer of the “young black female presenter”, here’s her story;

Sarpong was born in London to Ghanaian parents. She was educated at Connaught Girls School in Leytonstone and Sir George Monoux College in Walthamstow. She began her media career with Kiss 100 and later became an MTV UK & Ireland presenter (MTV Dance Floor Chart and MTV Select show). As the one of the female faces of Channel 4’s Sunday morning strand T4 for the last nine years, she interviewed Tony Blair for a T4 special, When Tony Met June which aired in January 2005. She also runs her own production company, Lipgloss Productions. Projects in development include a sitcom and a programme on climate change.

In recent years, Sarpong has presented other series including Your Face Or Mine?, a game show co-hosted with Jimmy Carr for E4; Dirty Laundry, an urban talk-show which was an original idea of Sarpong’s; Playing It Straight, a dating game-show filmed in Mexico for Channel 4, and Sarpong has presented the Smash Hits Poll Winners Party and the Party In The Park. Sarpong is a regular at the MOBO Awards and has presented them for three years in a row. She has also appeared on BBC Television’s Question Time, 8 out of 10 Cats, and Have I got news for you. She also has appeared on the programme, Never mind the buzzcocks and introduced reports on youth culture for This Week. In 2006 she hosted ITV2’s WAGs Boutique. Sarpong has also appeared on the third series of Bo Selecta…).

Sarpong is an ambassador for The Prince’s Trust and also campaigns for the Make Poverty History movement. In April 2005 she visited Ghana to make a film for Make Poverty History. She also hosted the major Make Poverty History event in London’s Trafalgar Square in summer 2005 on behalf of Nelson Mandela and Bob Geldof. Also On 7 July 2007 Sarpong presented at the UK leg of Live Earth at Wembley Stadium, London.

Probably her most significant honour to date came at the age of twenty nine and after six years as a broadcaster, she was awarded an MBE in the 2007 New Year Honours List for “services to broadcasting and charity”.

On 8 July 2008, Sarpong launched a new venture called Politics & the City, an attempt to bring politics and news to a new market. The site received a great deal of media coverage and some criticism. In March 2011 Lipgloss Productions registered huffingtonpost.co.uk, sparking speculation that she will helm the UK arm of the popular website.

Miss Sarpong has a pretty good resume. Although she is not as visible on screen nowadays, in terms of TV/radio presenting, June as near enough done it all and has an MBE and her own production company to show for it. 

So this Month, June Sarpong we salute you!

Ben Jk Anim-Antwi