Act fast to decriminalise suicide attempts, NGO urges govt

A survey shows as many as 500,000 Malaysian adults face depression, and 424,000 children suffer from mental health issues. (Freepik pic)

PETALING JAYA: Putrajaya has been urged by an NGO to expedite the process of decriminalising attempted suicide.

In conjuction with World Suicide Prevention Day today, the Malaysian Health Coalition (MHC) said doing so was an important step to destigmatise mental health and improve public welfare, in line with international norms.

In a statement, it asked the government to repeal Section 309 of the Penal Code to avoid double-penalising people who already faced psychological burdens.

The NGO called for further enforcement on the paraquat ban, which took effect at the beginning of the year, to prevent cases of self-induced poisoning.

Citing the National Health and Morbidity Survey, it said as many as 500,000 Malaysian adults faced depression, while 424,000 children suffered from mental health issues.

The figures were expected to increase following the Covid-19 pandemic, said MHC.

“It is important now more than ever to invest in and strengthen mental health support for the rakyat by ensuring adequate psychiatrists, clinical psychologists and trained counsellors at public hospitals and clinics across the country.”

It also urged the government to ensure parity in insurance coverage for mental health treatments, expand existing Talian Kasih helpline services and provide more support for mental health civil societies.

“Mental health is everyone’s issue, and we must not penalise people struggling with mental health issues.

“The government must build a more compassionate Malaysia by having an empathetic approach to policy and decision-making. We urge the decriminalisation of suicide (attempts) now,” it said.