Greater than 700,000 folks internationally die by suicide yearly. That’s virtually 2,000 folks each single day. Anybody who has reached the purpose of wanting to finish their life wants help and compassion.
But, in 23 nations, trying suicide is considered a criminal offence punishable with something from a superb 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 may 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 means of the Global Mental Health Action Network. They’ve joined forces to press nations that also classify suicide as a legal offence to alter their legal guidelines.
Up to now yr, Guyana, Pakistan, Ghana and Malaysia have made landmark reforms to decriminalise suicide. These ground-breaking legislative modifications not solely act as step one in direction of ending the stigma of suicide and suicidal concepts, in addition they imply there’s a higher probability of individuals coming ahead to ask for help earlier than it’s too late.
A variety of the nations the place trying suicide continues to be unlawful in civil legislation are former British colonies, with legal guidelines based mostly on outdated British penal laws.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 one of the best a part of a century or longer.
Individuals struggling to the extent that they’re keen to take their lives have as a lot proper as anybody else to hunt help and remedy. The worry of punishment and potential reprisals towards family members not solely stops folks from in search of assist but additionally stops truthful reporting on suicide. This implies governments lack information on the dimensions 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 this planet, agreed to decriminalise suicide. The Suicide Prevention Invoice, 2022 not solely repealed the legislation that made suicide a legal offence however changed it with a nationwide suicide prevention plan.
Right now, 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 continues to be a criminal offense, equivalent 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 in keeping 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 means of the International 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 direction of decriminalisation.
On the Psychological Well being For All Webinar in August, Dr Shahid ul Islam from the Directorate Common of Well being Companies in Bangladesh mentioned: “Now we have to personal the issue, it must be addressed and we should be dedicated to decriminalise suicide.” This stage of change was unthinkable even 5 years in the past in South Asia.
It has come by means of 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 help for folks experiencing psychological ill-health.
With 77 % of suicides occurring in low- and middle-income nations, the International South is coming collectively to work out find out how to 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 help this concept.
At United for International Psychological Well being, we’ve got been working with companions throughout the globe to marketing campaign and advocate for the decriminalisation of suicide. We all know that when folks really feel like they’ll ask for help with out punishment or discrimination, they’re much extra prone to search the remedy they want.
The WHO is demonstrating its help 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 will not be a criminal offense however a human rights and public well being concern. It’s now time for the punishment of in poor health psychological well being to finish and for the world to supply help to these pressured to endure in silence.
In the event you or somebody you understand is vulnerable 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.