Feature Article of Tuesday, 19 June 2012

Columnist: Twumasi, Patrick

The Case of Spousal Killings in Ghana

, a Psychological Perspective

The early morning siren which greets the nation from the front pages of newspapers and news reviews on the airwaves of the electronic media has been the murdering of a wife or the death of an entire family.

Spousal killings has been a cliché in news reporting that, no week passes without a report of the death of a wife or a wife and her children through the evil intents of an aggrieved and disgruntled husband. The perpetrators are often than not, the very men who were once upon a time head over heels in love with these women. Some couples who have made the headline enabling media houses, especially the print to make windfall in sales for all the bad and gory reasons are young, while others are in their late fifties (50s). You might have been itching and probing yourself and others for reasons, how sweet love suddenly turned sourer?

Man is always seeking pleasure, and trying hard to avoid pain. Human is a complex being to study direct or indirectly through overt or covert behaviour. Covert, is the non-observable, while overt as well, is the observable behaviour of human respectively. Hence, the intents of humans` which are covert can only be known when played out, some devastating such as the recent killings, which are unpardonable.

Covert behaviours are mental activity which can only be assessed through psychoanalysis.

What is causing this unfortunate behaviour? Simple, suspicion and distrust. Psychology has over the years tried to observe human in both overt and covert behaviour. Through scientific means, Psychology has been trying hard to manipulate or manage and hold in check variables in this pursuit. Paranoid personality disorder (PPD) is one disorder which is currently playing itself out in sections of the Ghanaian society.

Paranoid personality disorder is a chronic and pervasive condition characterised by disruptive patterns of thought, behaviour, and functioning. Symptoms or signs most often resemble schizophrenia and some researches indicate that there may be a genetic link between the two disorders. Persons with PPD are at a greater risk of experiencing depression, substance abuse, and agoraphobia. Persons suffering from PPD usually experience, chronic and pervasive distrust and suspicion of others in this case wives of flirtation; feelings that, they are been told lies, deceived, or exploited by other people, such as friends and wives; might believe that friends, families, and romantic partners are unworthy and unfaithful in this case wives and husbands are flirting; outburst of anger in response to perceived deception; often described as cold, jealous, secretive, and serious, and look for hidden meanings in gestures and conversations.

As already stated above, paranoid personalities suffer substance abuse, which goes to explain the condition in which the ‘Gentleman’ who murdered the wife and two children in Kumasi, the Ashanti Regional capital was at the time of his apprehension. According to abnormal psychology, depression is the common cold of a psychiatric problem. This is also one of the pains in the neck of paranoid personalities. This tend to bring about intra-psychic conflict which most often due to lack of social convoy result in this gruesome murders.

Let’s consider critically, the first and third symptoms of paranoid personality disorder, which is, chronic and pervasive distrust and suspicion of others. The various spousal murder cases reported clearly spelt out an inescapable and persistent distrust and lingering suspicion of those wives. These husbands’ states of mind were of insecurity in relation to the people around them. Again, the third symptom has to do with the personality believing that immediate friends, families and romantic partners are untrustworthy and unfaithful. These people find it difficult to express anger over the suspicion and mistrust they possibly have about their wives, hence, they opt for the wrong medium only to leave families hue and crying. Why the option of killing these women they claim to love and attempt to take and sometimes succeed in taking their own lives also? The held view of these men is that, there are some faceless competitors for their wives. This, they cannot accommodate by losing their “Lovely” wives to. Hence, after killing them, these husbands would have lost them to death. They cannot live without them, because, there is nothing living for, so they take their own lives too. Therefore, husbands are becoming more dangerous than guns around their wives.

For a while now, these gory stories have been chocking us. Yet, none of the perpetrator husbands has been penalized by means of incarceration. Such cases become flags that hoist themselves over court houses without salute. Authorities should ensure that punishment is duly meted out to these social wreakers. Punishment has its own philosophy. Punishment can be seen as a negative reinforcement which prevents an adverse behaviour or repetition of a negative behaviour. Punishment has the ingredients of correction, deterrence, pacification of the offended victim(s), and doing away with the issue of retribution or nemesis. In other words, applying punitive measures at these murderous husbands in careful but speedy trials at competent courts of jurisdiction will prevent many a husband from conceiving such ideas knowing very well there will be no room to harbour explicitly an unpardonable act. But, court proceedings have over the years been snail paced. This state of affairs unfortunately strengthens such murderous stands. Additionally, let no good people keep silent for evil to thrive. The various guidance and counseling institutions should stampede these social progressive enemies. They work in tandem to create lots of orphans in society.

Another issue that needs further attention has to do with the attendance to the Clinical Psychologist and the Psychiatrist for regular assessment. The perception we hold about these facilities and professionals prevents many from consulting them personally as well as our relations. Our perception about these health facilities are also part of such behaviours. We need to accept the fact that, these institutions are part of us and it’s our taxes which are used to run them. Mental illness is curable; hence, we should make ourselves available for those trained Professionals to exercise their expertise to improve the mental health of the country. Most often than not, our personal beliefs held from oral free text documentary about psychiatry tends to hold us back. The continuous bashing of these facilities for the purposes they serve, affects the confidence of those who wish to approach them for help in times of any psychic problem. It will also do Ghana a lot of good for authorities at the Public Health Services of Ministry of Health to extensively educate and sensitise the citizenry about mental illness. Psychological and psychiatry problems live with us daily, therefore, accepting it and living with such information, will in many ways prevent these needless killings.

We need to accept and believe that mental sickness are just like everyday diseases that we consult Medical Physicians with; therefore, there is the need to continuously visit the Psychiatrist and the Clinical Psychologist for the needed attention. Surely, we shall overcome this social evil passing across families’ like knife running through butter.

Patrick Twumasi