Decriminalising suicide is key to suicide prevention, says Health DG

DECRIMINALISING suicide is key towards suicide prevention in Malaysia, said the Health Ministry.

In conjunction with World Suicide Prevention Day on Friday (Sept 10), Health director-general Tan Sri Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah said that recognising that suicide is not a crime is a step forward for more people to step up and seek early treatment.

“The Health Ministry supports efforts to amend or repeal Section 309 of the Malaysian Penal Code which deems suicide a crime,” he said in a statement.

The legal provision states that whoever attempts to commit suicide and does any act towards the commission of such offence shall be punished with imprisonment for a term which may extend to one year or with a fine or with both.

According to the World Health Organisation (WHO) more than 703,000 suicide cases were reported around the world each year, with an average of one case every 40 seconds.

In 2019, one in 100 deaths (1.3%) are caused by suicide, and for each death, it is estimated that 135 friends and family members were emotionally, socially and economically impacted.

Furthermore, the number of deaths caused by suicide has risen in the past year particularly due to the COVID-19 pandemic which has taken a huge toll on the people’s mental health.

Social factors including unemployment and loss of income as well as isolation from family and friends can further impact one’s mental health and can lead to depression.

“If depression is not identified and properly treated, it can lead to suicidal behaviour,” acknowledged Dr Noor Hisham.

Statistics from the Royal Malaysia Police (PDRM) have indicated that the number of suicide deaths rose from 609 in 2019 to 631 in 2020.

As of July 2021, there have been 638 suicide deaths reported to the police as compared to 262 cases between January and July last year, which is an increase of 143%.

“MOH remains committed in establishing cooperation and welcoming various other agencies to jointly participate in suicide prevention efforts.

“We hope that these efforts can increase public awareness about the importance of suicide prevention, eliminate the stigma against suicidal behaviour, and in turn, reduce death rates due to suicide.” – Sept 10, 2021

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