A health expert has urged Parliament to reconsider a decision to criminalise attempted suicide.
Dr Eugene Dordoye, Consultant Psychiatrist and senior lecturer at the University of Health and Allied Sciences (UHAS) in Ho, said Monday that people who attempt suicide are sick and not criminals.
The mental health expert’s comments follow a debate in Parliament on whether or not attempted suicide should be decriminalised.
Currently, the law stipulates that it is a ‘misdemeanour’ if one attempts to take their own life and it is a felony if one helps another person to take his or her life.
Dr Dordoye said on Joy FM’s Super Morning Show on Monday that there is a lack of knowledge among the leadership of Parliament on what causes suicide.
The mental health expert said that many studies have been conducted on the causes of suicide, noting that “90% or more of people who are suicidal [the problem] is from illness and close to 85% of them are mental illness. As high as 70% of them are caused by depression which is a mental illness.”
He explained that when people are depressed, they have hopelessness, they feel worthless, they have delusions of guilt and in those situations, they feel life is not worth living and therefore may wish to take their own life.
He highlighted that even social economic status can force someone to want to attempt suicide.
The Head of Psychological Medicine and Mental Health Department at UHAS believes that the law is denying victims of attempted suicide and other mental health sufferers access to good healthcare that can help them.
Dr Dordoye added that criminalising suicide comes from colonial-era laws and has unfortunately remained a part of Ghana’s laws even after the end of colonisation.
He revealed that Section 57 of the Criminal and Other Offences Act 29 was based on a law from the 19th century when lives belonged to the British crown and therefore whoever attempted to take their life, in those days, was essentially stealing a life owned by the crown. If a person was caught after a failed attempt, the crown would punish that individual.
This law was included in Ghana’s criminal code in 1960. However, the very people who introduced it, the British, repealed the law in 1961, according to the mental health expert.
Dr Dordoye said people who wish to come out and tell their stories cannot do so because legally speaking they will be confessing to a crime according to Ghana’s archaic suicide laws.