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 international locations, trying suicide is thought of a felony offence punishable with something from a nice 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 might be prevented.
In 2023, the day brings hope: Lastly, that message is being heard.
The organisation United for International Psychological Well being has developed a community of advocates by the International Psychological Well being Motion Community. They’ve joined forces to press international locations that also classify suicide as a felony offence to vary their legal guidelines.
Up to now 12 months, Guyana, Pakistan, Ghana and Malaysia have made landmark reforms to decriminalise suicide. These ground-breaking legislative modifications 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 probability of individuals coming ahead to ask for assist earlier than it’s too late.
A variety of the international locations the place trying suicide remains to be unlawful in civil regulation are former British colonies, with legal guidelines primarily based on outdated British penal laws. Breaking with that previous is a daring step ahead for international locations 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 assist and therapy. The concern of punishment and potential reprisals towards family members not solely stops individuals 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 The Suicide Prevention Invoice, 2022 not solely repealed the regulation that made suicide a felony offence however changed it with a nationwide suicide prevention plan.
Right this moment, Guyana is within the course of of creating 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 Creating States (SIDS) the place suicide remains to be a criminal offense, akin to St Lucia, the Bahamas and Suriname.
Earlier this 12 months, 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 international locations 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 International Psychological Well being Motion Community.
In the meantime, in December 2022, Senator Shahadat Awan from Pakistan, a rustic which punished tried suicides by as much as a 12 months’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 international locations in Asia to comply with go well with. 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 Common of Well being Companies in Bangladesh stated: “We’ve got to personal the issue, it must be addressed and we must be dedicated to decriminalise suicide.” This stage 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 international locations, the International South is coming collectively to work out learn how to abolish these age-old and outdated legal guidelines. However challenges stay. Policymakers in a number of international locations nonetheless view the criminalisation of suicide as a deterrent, regardless of little proof to assist this concept.
At United for International Psychological Well being, now we 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 in poor health psychological well being to finish and for the world to supply assist to these pressured to undergo in silence.
In the event you or somebody you already know is susceptible to suicide, these organisations could possibly assist
The views expressed on this article are the creator’s personal and don’t essentially mirror Al Jazeera’s editorial stance.