General News of Friday, 13 September 2013
The Chief Psychiatrist at the Ghana Health Service, Dr. Akwasi Osei, is pushing for a review of the law which criminalizes suicide attempts saying that such people are only crying for help and must not be criminalized.
Dr. Osei said the act, if decriminalized, will not encourage suicide as some believe, but to him it should be recognized as a medical and social issue requiring a better approach than simply calling it a criminal offence.
“The good news in the Mental Health Bill is that, it would effectively decriminalize suicide because the bill has a section that says that anybody who attempts suicide should first be assessed clinically before prosecution, in which case, for most of such persons, the underlying mental illness would be found,” he explained.
The Chief Psychiatrist made the call in a discussion on HOT FM, averring that it is not enough to prosecute the person who attempts suicide if the person is found not to have mental illness since the person may probably have a social reason which needs to be addressed.
“Ghana’s attitude, which incriminates these people fails to address the situation, but rather worsens the problem,” he added.
According him, all over the world, a person dies of suicide every 40 seconds which calls for the society to embark on a serious public education; reiterating that “the law is an axe which must be changed to decriminalize suicide because it is a disgrace in the 21st century to imprison someone who needs help from mental or social problem”.
“The judge who will fail to realize that the person who attempted suicide is suffering from depression and will go ahead to imprison the person should first be examined mentally”, he opined as he enlightened that any suicide attempt should be considered a sickness.
Dr. Osei disclosed that 93-95% of all suicides and attempted suicides are from mental disorders, with over 80% as a result of depression.