Samson’s Take: Suicide by bad law

It is a good feeling that the State takes such interest in your life. It protects your life to the extent if another person intentionally takes your life, i.e. commits murder, the State sentences him to death. If the person only attempted to kill or killed unintentionally, the State may put him in prison for the rest of his life unless some good reason warrants a lesser sentence.

The 1960 law even expects that if your intention is to cause unlawful harm to someone, make sure there is no intention to cause death, otherwise it will hold you guilty for manslaughter. That’s how much the State claims to love you to safeguard your life from being taken by another, and that’s why the many years of a crusade to abolish the death penalty have failed in Ghana.

Never mind that our presidents have refused to sign the warrant so those sentenced will be killed. The State insists your life is sacred and inviolable so only God must take it without sanctions. If you decided to take it yourself, the State calls that suicide and may throw into jail for three years. So, unless you succeed, you will be punished. You will be punished for only trying and not actually killing yourself.

But who in their right state of mind would decide to commit suicide. It is proven that anybody who contemplates suicide has a special situation and needs special care. The WHO reports every 40 seconds, one person commits suicide. It is said to be the second-leading cause of death among those between the ages of 15 and 29, and is the leading cause of death among teenage girls between 15 and 19.

So obviously what such people need from a State that professes love and protection for them, is not prosecution. Mental health specialists tell us the thought of being prosecuted and jailed for not fully executing a suicide mission, actually encourages suicide as the law does not and cannot punish the dead. On the occasion of mental health day, today, can Ghana demonstrate genuine commitment to amend section 57 of the Criminal Offences Act because it simply doesn’t make sense?

Decriminalizing suicide is such a simple and worthy thing to do, so why the many years of talk without action? October is mental health month; please don’t be part of the global statistic. There is help. Get a mental health check-up now! May our State prove this special love and protection for us by prioritising improving mental health care presently in a very terrible state.

Samson Lardy ANYENINI
October 10, 2020