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Mental Health Authority Wants Suicide Decriminalized

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The Ghana Mental Health Authority (GMHA) has called on government to expedite action on the passage of a legislative instrument that would decriminalise suicide.

This, they said would enable persons who fail in taking their lives to receive help and not prosecution.

According to the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the GMHA, Dr. Akwasi Osei, the outlawing of suicide rather increases the tendencies of the act adding that the law makes it difficult for people to seek help.

“Instead of prosecuting such persons, every person identified to have considered or attempted any form of suicide must immediately seek help from a psychiatrist or clinical psychologist,” he said.

Though intensive fight has been waged to ensure that suicide is decriminalized, Dr. Osei revealed that some parliamentarians and even medical doctors do not support the drive.

According to him many think the decriminalisation, “would be a license for people to commit suicide.”

Church help

Dr. Osei made a clarion call on churches to help in the fight rather than compound matters.

He stressed that suicide was not a sin and mental health challenges should not be spiritualized.

The psychiatrist indicated that most church counsellors were not well equipped to handle persons suffering from any form of mental disorder and therefore urged them to refer such persons to a psychiatrist or clinical psychologists instead of resorting to prayers and spiritual directions.

Dr Osei also regretted that culturally, suicide was considered a taboo and anyone found to have killed himself would have his or her corpse punished for bringing shame to the society.

He added that there were no proper medical records on suicide attempts as such cases were not documented as causes of death.

He said his outfit was training judicial staff on mental disorders while giving health officials the needed skills to properly handle suicide attempts issues before referring to the specialists.

He encouraged the public to offer help to people with suicidal tendencies, ensure all possible objects of suicide were removed, take the person to the nearest health facility and keep an eye on them.

Suicide

Section 57 of the Criminal Offences Act – 1960 indicates that a person who attempts to commit suicide commits a misdemeanour while anybody who abets the commission of suicide by any person shall whether or not the suicide is actually committed, be guilty of first-degree felony.

A person who attempted to commit suicide but failed may be fined, sentenced to three months imprisonment or both by a competent court of law.

By: The Publisher

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