Decriminalise suicide and extend insurance coverage for mental illnesses

KUCHING: Decriminalise suicide and extend insurance coverage for mental illnesses to address mental health issues in Malaysia, suggested Bandar Kuching MP Dr Kelvin Yii yesterday.

He said there was no evidence that criminalising suicide was a deterrent as it marginalised people from access to much needed help from mental health services.

“It is important to properly address this issue and this also includes repealing the archaic suicide law,” he told the media in a press conference at DAP Headquarters here.

Dr Yii pointed out that Section 309 of the Penal Code stipulated a punishment of up to one year in prison and fine on individuals who survived suicides.

“In March 2017, a 24-year-old lady was charged in court a few days after she attempted to end her life. She was jailed for three months and fined RM2000.

“The irony is this very same group of people are at increased risk of future suicide and therefore, need the most help, and putting them in jail may increase that risk.”

Dr Yii (right) at the press conference yesterday.

He also suggested that insurance companies extend their coverage to mental illnesses in their health insurance policies.

“This is to provide greater access to mental health services even in private hospitals as well as to de-stigmatise people of mental health issues.

“In January 2019, AIA Singapore actually launched its first package of coverage for mental illnesses, known as Critical Care covering five different groups of disorder, which are Major Depressive Disorder (MDD), schizophrenia, Bipolar Disorder, Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) and Tourette syndrome (TS).

“This shows that despite all the concerns that insurance companies have, it is actually possible and feasible to put forth a plan for mental health coverage.”

Dr Yii said he aimed to push for the implementation of the policy in the next parliamentary sitting by forming a Mental Health Caucus to further promote conversations beyond debate speeches.

“We want to engage with the relevant stakeholders including Ministry of Health, Bank Negara, Insurance companies and others.

“The caucus is open to MPs and even state assemblymen from both political divides as we better engage the different stakeholders and push for such policy changes,” he explained.