The Mental Health Authority is calling for the abrogation of the Criminal Code of Ghana 1960, Act 29, Section 57 that criminalises suicide.
According to the Authority, punishing citizens who fail to end their lives due to certain difficulties they are facing is not the ideal way to go about resolving things especially when they have not received the needed support from society.
Such persons, the Authority says should be given psychological assistance rather than serving jail time.
“Simply put, these individuals have cried for help, we failed them. They took action to kill themselves and equally failed to kill themselves. Must we punish them when they had cried for help? Definitely not! But our current law criminalises suicide. They do not deserve punishment but simply need psychological support.
“Punishment worsens their plight and prevents them from being useful members of their community. However, there is enough evidence to show that psychological support can make them, once again, useful, and valuable members to their communities.”
The Criminal Code of Ghana, Act 29 of Ghana, Section 57; Subsection II, 1960, provides that “whoever attempts to commit suicide shall be guilty of a misdemeanour.”
A person who attempts suicide is, therefore, subject to arrest and prosecution and is made to face criminal sanctions upon conviction.
Mental Health Authority made the plea as part of its efforts to commemorate World Suicide Prevention Day, held on September 10, annually.
The theme for this year’s celebration is “A renewed worldwide commitment to prevent suicides: creating hope through action”.
According to the Authority, education about suicide has become very necessary now more than before “because several individuals are severely impacted by various issues that push them to decide to die by suicide contributing to the painful global statistics that ‘somebody dies by suicide every 40 seconds'”.
The Authority in its press statement revealed that as of June this year, 417 Ghanaians attempted suicide.
Data on suicide is alarming as the Authority admitted that “these figures could potentially even be higher than we know” because of stigma and fear of community repercussions such persons hold.
Statistics show that in 2018, the number of people who attempted suicide was 797. The numbers rose to 880 in 2019 but dropped to 777 in 2020.
For the Mental Health Authority setting a day aside to raise awareness about the risk factors and premeditating causes of suicide, inform the populace about the prevention strategies for suicide and management of suicide ideation all seeking to reduce to the barest minimum the number of suicides and suicide attempts is imperative.
The Authority also listed some signs that people had to look out for. These include “openly expressing the intention to kill oneself, withdrawal from family, friends, and society, expressing no sense of purpose in life, no point in living, painting, writing, and talking about death, dying or suicide, expressing hopelessness and finding ways to kill themselves with poisonous substances, rope, among others.”
Meanwhile, the Authority has urged the media to educate the populace on this phenomenon that has no respect for one’s age, gender or social class.
“One person dying by suicide is disturbing and these suicide figures are painfully far too high. There must be a concerted effort to end this phenomenon. We appeal to our partners in the suicide awareness campaign and media partners not to relent in their efforts to keep this advocacy going on.”
Also, the Mental Health Authority has called on corporate and telecommunication organisations to assist its efforts in establishing a suicide prevention call centre.
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