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General News of Sunday, 18 June 2017

Source: Graphic.com.gh

Judges 'schooled' on need to decriminalize attempted suicide

The Mental Health Authority (MHA), has initiated moves aimed at ensuring that, attempted suicide was decriminalized, with a training workshop for judges.

According to the MHA, many attempted suicide cases were mental health related, and therefore people should not be punished for that.

Statistics available indicates that adolescents were most vulnerable when it comes to suicide.

Section 57 Clause 2 of the 1960 Criminal Code of Ghana makes attempted suicide a criminal offence, but that according to the MHA was wrong.

Rather, the MHA thinks that there should be other ways of discouraging people from committing suicide, than making it a criminal offence.

The training workshop was to help equip the judges on how to deal with attempted suicide cases when they come before them.

They were taken through forms of mental health including behaviours they have to look out for when accused persons are arraigned in court.

Dr Joseph Osafo, a clinical psychologist, told Graphic Online in an interview that attempted suicide was "a mental health problem."

“We need to let them [judges] understand what the current situations are, the reality on the ground, let them know the incidences in Ghana, and based on that," advocate for attempted suicide to be expunged as a criminal code offence.

He added that the risk factors were psycho-social and not as psychiatric as perceived by many.

Others, he said were also to do with simple struggles with life challenges, difficulties, getting money to buy food, shelter, among others.

Dr Osafo who is also a senior lecturer at the Department of Psychology at the University of Ghana was also of the view that decriminalizing attempted suicide will give the youth and people who have suicidal thoughts, an opportunity to talk about what they feel without having to look over their shoulders or having to think they will be prosecuted should they talk about their suicide tendencies.

He added that,“Suicide is simply a cry for help to resolve psycho-social issues and, therefore, more appropriately is a medical problem.”

He therefore called for the need to scrap attempted suicide from as a criminal from the books.

In a separate interview with Graphic Online, a Magistrate at the Madina Court A, Her Worship Maame Efua Tordimah said the training has equipped her on how to deal with attempted suicide issues.

Advocating for decriminalization of the law, she said, “will also make you appreciate the person before you, I am learning a lot because as its rightly said, we have the law that if you attempt to commit suicide, it's a crime."

She called for the need to ensure that, the required structures for good delivery of mental healthcare were in place.