Greater than 700,000 individuals internationally die by suicide yearly. That’s nearly 2,000 individuals each single day. Anybody who has reached the purpose of wanting to finish their life wants assist and compassion.
But, in 23 nations, trying suicide is considered a criminal offence punishable with something from a effective to years of imprisonment.
The World Well being Group (WHO) and the Worldwide Affiliation for Suicide Prevention mark September 10 as World Suicide Prevention Day, to assist finish the stigma surrounding suicide. It’s a day designed to ship a message to the world that suicide could be prevented.
In 2023, the day brings hope: Lastly, that message is being heard.
The organisation United for Global Mental Health has developed a community of advocates by the Global Mental Health Action Network. They’ve joined forces to press nations that also classify suicide as a felony offence to alter their legal guidelines.
Previously yr, Guyana, Pakistan, Ghana and Malaysia have made landmark reforms to decriminalise suicide. These ground-breaking legislative adjustments not solely act as step one in the direction of ending the stigma of suicide and suicidal concepts, additionally they imply there’s a higher likelihood of individuals coming ahead to ask for assist earlier than it’s too late.
Numerous the nations the place trying suicide remains to be unlawful in civil regulation are former British colonies, with legal guidelines based mostly on outdated British penal laws. Breaking with that previous is a daring step ahead for nations the place trying suicide has been unlawful for the perfect a part of a century or longer.
Folks struggling to the extent that they’re prepared to take their lives have as a lot proper as anybody else to hunt assist and therapy. The worry of punishment and potential reprisals in opposition to family members not solely stops individuals from searching for assist but additionally stops truthful reporting on suicide. This implies governments lack knowledge on the size of the issue, making it troublesome to plan efficient nationwide prevention efforts.
It was with this argument that Guyana, a rustic with one of many highest suicide charges on the planet, agreed to decriminalise suicide. The Suicide Prevention Invoice, 2022 not solely repealed the regulation that made suicide a felony offence however changed it with a nationwide suicide prevention plan.
Immediately, Guyana is within the course of of building suicide prevention centres all through the nation and rolling out public programmes to scale back suicide makes an attempt. Guyana’s motion has sparked hope in different Small Island Growing States (SIDS) the place suicide remains to be a criminal offense, comparable to St Lucia, the Bahamas and Suriname.
Earlier this yr, the SIDS signed the Bridgetown Declaration, which included an settlement to “replace well being laws consistent with human rights norms together with the decriminalisation of suicide”.
Ghana efficiently decriminalised suicide in March 2023, elevating hopes different African nations will do the identical. Constitutional petitions in Kenya and Uganda difficult authorized provisions that criminalise suicide have been launched, and the civil society teams organising these petitions are in shut contact with their counterparts by the World Psychological Well being Motion Community.
In the meantime, in December 2022, Senator Shahadat Awan from Pakistan, a rustic which punished attempted suicides by as much as a yr’s imprisonment, efficiently championed the abolition of Part 325 of the Pakistan Penal Code. The decriminalisation of suicide in Pakistan has opened the door for different nations in Asia to observe swimsuit. Malaysia decriminalised suicide in June 2023 and Pakistan’s neighbours are additionally taking steps in the direction of decriminalisation.
On the Psychological Well being For All Webinar in August, Dr Shahid ul Islam from the Directorate Basic of Well being Providers in Bangladesh stated: “We now have to personal the issue, it needs to be addressed and we have to be dedicated to decriminalise suicide.” This degree of change was unthinkable even 5 years in the past in South Asia.
It has come by the tireless efforts of civil society and grassroots organisations like BRAC in Bangladesh and Taskeen in Pakistan. They’ve fought not solely to abolish legal guidelines criminalising suicide but additionally to name for governments to extend the extent of assist for individuals experiencing psychological ill-health.
With 77 % of suicides occurring in low- and middle-income nations, the World South is coming collectively to work out how you can abolish these age-old and outdated legal guidelines. However challenges stay. Policymakers in a number of nations nonetheless view the criminalisation of suicide as a deterrent, regardless of little proof to assist this concept.
At United for World Psychological Well being, we now have been working with companions throughout the globe to marketing campaign and advocate for the decriminalisation of suicide. We all know that when individuals really feel like they’ll ask for assist with out punishment or discrimination, they’re much extra prone to search the therapy they want.
The WHO is demonstrating its assist for the decriminalisation of suicide with the launch of a brand new coverage temporary on the problem. It recommends that member states dissolve each piece of laws that criminalises suicide, tried suicide or suicidal ideation.
From South America to South Asia, and from Africa to Southeast Asia, optimistic examples maintain the potential to encourage others. Suicide isn’t a criminal offense however a human rights and public well being concern. It’s now time for the punishment of sick psychological well being to finish and for the world to offer assist to these pressured to endure in silence.
When you or somebody you understand is liable to suicide, these organisations might be able to assist
The views expressed on this article are the writer’s personal and don’t essentially replicate Al Jazeera’s editorial stance.