Decriminalising suicide: Govt’s move gets the thumbs-up

Dr Ismail Drahman

KUCHING: The Mental Health Association of Sarawak (MHAS) has welcomed the move by the government to decriminalise suicide and the support to fine tune amendments to the Penal Code in this regard.

“We feel that Malaysians are well aware of the tragic act and the effects of suicide toward the sufferers, families, and society.

“This act is attributed to the poor mental health of the sufferers. We hope that more people who are having mental health issues or problems will come forward early for help,” MHAS president Dr Ismail Drahman said when contacted.

He added that decriminalising suicide could also reduce the stigma towards suicide and mental health problems.

He said this when commenting on Deputy Health Minister II Datuk Aaron Ago Dagang’s recent statement in the Dewan Rakyat that the move to decriminalise suicide has been set in motion, with the Cabinet to finetune amendments to the Penal Code on the matter.

“We would like to thank the relevant authorities for their concern and fast action with regard to this issue.”

Dr Ismail also shared earlier statements issued by MHAS which stated that back in the old days, people thought such laws would deter people from ending their lives and to repeal them would run the risk of there being more attempts. However, MHAS pointed out that both were myths.

“When people are so desperate as to attempt suicide, they are not thinking of surviving and facing prosecution.

“As for the idea that repealing would lead to an increase, the World Health Organisation reported in 2014 that most countries decriminalised years ago and there was no evidence to show this caused a rise; on the contrary, data showed it was more likely to decrease,” said MHAS in one of its earlier statements.

MHAS also pointed out that here in Sarawak, progress was being made to increase awareness on mental health and provide more assistance to people, including those who are so depressed that they are contemplating suicide.

“This is thanks to the state government, the Health Department, and non-governmental organisations (NGOs) working in the field such as MHAS and Befrienders.”