Death Penalty Controversy: A Psychological Explanation

Morgen Changamire
Intern Counselling Psychologist

The death penalty consultative process won public attention on various media platforms as citizenry expressed mixed views about the death penalty.
Death penalty also known as capital punishment is the execution of an offender sentenced to death after conviction by a court of law of a criminal offense and was abolished in 2005 following objections from some sectors.
Proponents of the death penalty argued that it prevents crime, protects society, and preserves moral order. On the other hand, critics of the death penalty argue that it is punitive and inhumane – An issue to think about!
What may be useful is to understand death penalty from a psychological point of view and embrace ways to overcome, stress, depression, and anxiety and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) due to death row exposure.
Depression is a common mental disorder associated with suddenness and lack of interest in everyday activities. Depression is caused by exposure to stressful events such as death, historical, family, and personal problems.
According to Bradford, (2011) death row syndrome is a psychological disorder that inmates on death row can go through when they are put in isolation. This may affect the offender’s physical and mental health, often causing depression and anxiety making inmates suicidal.
Depression is managed through education, positive lifestyles, psychosocial support, and psychological counselling.
Psychologically, an offender is forced to accept death and withdrew from social life as the execution day approaches which is unknown. This may lead to anxiety disorders, consistent worries or fears strong enough to affect a person’s daily activities.
To overcome anxiety disorders a person should eat healthy food, manage stress and having a relaxed environment.
During the consultative process, it was suggested that a person sentenced to death shall be hanged by the neck until he died. Some respondents highlighted that faster methods should be found to lessen the pain on the convicted person.
Death penalty exposes the offender to pain. To manage pain, an individual should exercise regularly, use of cold and hot therapy and massage among other techniques.
Biopsychosocial model states that pain involves psychological and social factors. It says that factors like culture, family, and environment influence the way offenders experience pain.
This explains how offenders experience different painful situations, that can lead to suicidal thoughts and even develop into serious mental illness.
Families, friends, and relatives of the convicted individuals on the death row, suffer a variety of mental health effects, such as Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, depression, and anxiety.
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder is a mental health problem a person may develop after experiencing traumatic events such as witnessing the death of an offender.
An individual with PTSD experience nightmares, trouble sleeping, pain, sweating, nausea, or trembling as some of the symptoms.
Not only family members and friends are exposed to psychological effects of the death penalty. Prison officers who are always watchful of death row prisoners consider the death row a fearful place, that expose them to trauma, depression, and continuous worry due to exposure to frightening situation.
To manage PSSD, an individual can choose self-care, get support from peers and friends, as well as seeking counselling from counselling psychologists and clinical experts.
Death penalty is painful and fearful.
Disclaimer: The information contained in this article is purely the writer’s views and is not contained to tarnish the image of anyone but indebted for educational purpose.

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