Lee Lam Thye: MPs Must Work To Decriminalise Suicide

Current laws could hinder people from seeking help.

KUALA LUMPUR, Oct 21 – Lee Lam Thye, member of the Mental Health Promotion Advisory Council and the patron of Befrienders KL, has urged lawmakers to focus on the nation’s mental health issues by pushing the government to revoke laws criminalising suicide.

“I urge that section 309 of the Penal Code be abolished because it considers suicide attempts or individuals with intent to commit suicide as a criminal offense will result in injustice to those suffering from depression, anxiety, and other mental disorders.

“I am concerned that if this law is not repealed, then those with intent to commit suicide will hide, as they may think they will be arrested by the police and charged with criminals if they trigger a suicide attempt,” he told Bernama.

Lee also called on the Attorney General (AG) to review law provisions on suicide attempts, to encourage people to seek help for their mental state, and not consider suicide attempts a criminal offence.

“I hope MPs from both sides will raise this issue in Parliament and ask the relevant ministries to fight this issue to help those suffering from mental illness,” he added.

Last month Deputy Prime Minister Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail said that about 40 per cent of Malaysians experienced mental health problems in their lifetime and a 2017 survey by the Health Ministry found that following health screenings conducted on 273, 203 people, 18,336 were found to be suffering from depression, Bernama reported.

Dr Wan Azizah, who is also Women, Family and Community Development minister, reportedly said that the country’s Mental Health Policy needs to be reviewed to include all aspects required, in the creation and strengthening of early preventive measures.

She was also reported to have welcomed the proposal to set up a Mental Health Institute with the aim of achieving a better understanding and treatment of mental health diseases, adding that although a 2009 study conducted by the National Suicide Registry found the number of suicides was low, at 1.18 per cent per 100,000 people, experts say that the actual number was much higher.

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