The Minority Leader, Mr Haruna Iddrisu, has kicked against the call for the decriminalisation of Attempted Suicide in the country, describing the attempt to take one’s life as an unacceptable behaviour that must rather be punished and deterred.
He stated that criminalising an attempt to commit suicide would go a long way to discourage Ghanaians, especially the youth, to appreciate that there was no reward in killing oneself. “You do not want to think that when you have depression and distress, the ultimate thing is that you go and take your life since you cannot recover your life back,” he stated.
Not normal behaviour
Contributing to a statement that called for the decriminalisation of attempted suicide in Parliament yesterday, Mr Iddrisu said: “If we do not criminalise Attempted Suicide as a country, then we are saying that it is a normal behaviour, but this cannot be.
“Any person who has researched deeply into suicide will know that the only type of suicide that is behaviourally rewarding is the altruistic suicide during which the individual places societal values higher than his individual values,” he stated.
Altruistic suicide was a concept first identified by Emile Durkheim and is when a person commits suicide in order to benefit others. Altruistic suicide is sometimes viewed as a courageous act such as self-sacrifice during times of war.
In a statement read on his behalf in Parliament, the Ranking Member of the Health Committee and the National Democratic Congress Member of Parliament (MP) for Juaboso, Mr Kwabena Mintah Akandoh, called for the repeal of section 57 (2) of the Criminal Offences Act, 1960 (Act 29) on criminalisation of attempted suicide.
He argued that studies in the country had shown that suicide behaviours were associated with mental disorders, poverty-related issues such as financial crisis, marital concerns and loss of jobs; parental neglect, romantic crisis, alcoholism and drug abuse.
Blaming such challenges to be more psychologically-related than criminal in nature, he said about 1,500 suicides were committed yearly, making such high fatalities of suicidal behaviour a public health problem.
He noted that criminalisation of Attempted Suicide encouraged persons who had suicidal tendencies to take every measure to ensure that they did not only fail in their attempt but also discouraged suicidal persons from reporting suicidal crisis early enough for help.
Mr Akandoh, therefore, suggested that decriminalisation of Attempted Suicide was a key priority for which fellow legislators must join hands with the Centre for Suicide and Violence Research, University of Ghana, the Mental Health Authority and Health Well-being International to take the requisite steps to repeal the offence of Attempted Suicide from the Act 29 (as amended).
However, buttressing his support for the criminalisation of attempted suicide, Mr Iddrisu cited an incident at New Town, a suburb of Accra, where a gentleman he named as Tunde, hanged himself in his room following an argument he had with his sister over a Fanta drink.
“Such behaviour is not acceptable and I, therefore, disagree with the maker of the statement that we should decriminalise Attempted Suicide.
“We do not want a society where we encourage young children that if they have a problem they should resort to killing themselves,” he added.
Acknowledging an increase in recent reported cases of suicide in Ghana, the Minority Leader said: “Mr Speaker, you are a good lawyer and the source of law is morality but behaviour of attempted suicide is immoral.
“We should, therefore, find out, as a country, what is responsible for recent reported cases of increase in suicide and what they are attributable to,” he argued.
Resource Mental Health Authority
Mr Iddrisu called for the Mental Health Authority to be resourced to deal with suicide and also called for efforts to be made to tackle unemployment in the country.
He noted that there were many people without jobs, a situation that caused them to endure distress and hopelessness.
“As people get hopeless and distressed, they throw their hands in despair and they are potential candidates of suicide. As a country, we must look deep into how to find opportunities of employment for persons; the strongest measure of wellbeing is employment,” he added.
Let matter lie
Earlier, the First Deputy Speaker, Mr Joseph Osei-Owusu, said in his 30 years of law practice, he had never heard of anybody being prosecuted for Attempted Suicide and therefore “this is a matter we should just allow to lie’’.
“I think that in every jurisprudence, it is not one of the things that any prosecutor is interested in and Ghanaians in general sympathise with people who attempt to commit suicide. They are rather helped and taken through counselling,” he stated.