Mental Health Authority wants suicide decriminalized

Laudia Sawer, GNA

Tema, Sept 15, GNA – The Mental Health
Authority says it is still pushing for the decriminalization of suicide to
enable persons who fail in taking their lives to receive help and not prosecution.

Section 57 of the Criminal Offences Act – 1960
indicates that a person who attempts to commit suicide commits a misdemeanor
while anybody who abets the commission of suicide by any person shall whether
or not the suicide be actually committed, be guilty of first degree felony.

A person who attempted to commit suicide but
failed may be fined, sentenced to three months imprisonment or both by a
competent court of law.

Dr Akwasi Osei, Chief Executive Officer of the
Mental Health Authority, said criminalization of suicide was making it
difficult for people to seek help and freely confide in people their
willingness to take their lives.

Dr Osei said instead of prosecuting such
persons, every person identified to have considered or attempted any form of
suicide must immediately seek help from a psychiatrist or clinical

He disclosed that his outfit was still
dialoguing with stakeholders to ensure that suicide was decriminalized.

He however added that many parliamentarians
including medical doctors did not see the need for the decriminalization “as
they see it as a license for people to commit suicide”.

The Mental Health Authority CEO appealed to
churches to stop describing suicide as a sin and spiritualizing mental health

He indicated that most church counsellors were
not well equipped to handle persons suffering from any form of mental disorder
and therefore urged them to refer such persons to a psychiatrist or clinical
psychologists instead of resorting to prayers and spiritual directions.

Dr Osei also regretted that culturally,
suicide was considered a taboo and anyone found to have killed himself would
have his or her corpse punished for bringing shame to the society.

He added that there were no proper medical
records on suicide attempts as such cases were not documented as causes of

He said his outfit was training judicial staff
on mental disorders while giving health officials the needed skills to properly
handle suicide attempts issues before referring to the specialists.

According to him, health personnel must recognize
it as an emergency, adding, “it is like an accident victim or collapsed patient
who need urgent medical attention”.

He encouraged the public to offer help to
people with suicidal tendencies, ensure all possible objects of suicide were removed,
take the person to the nearest health facility and keep an eye on them.

He stated that low tolerance level, breakdown
of coping mechanisms, graphic reportage on suicides led to copycat suicide,
knowing suicide techniques, and availability of suicide tools were some of the
issues which fed suicide tendencies.

Others were relationship problems, sense of
disconnect from others, loss of sense of belonging and feeling of not being
loved, belief of becoming a burden, and sense of failure and frustration.


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