Thursday, June 4

Lee calls on lawmakers to speak up on mental health issues


KUALA LUMPUR: Mental Health Promotion Advisory Council member Tan Sri Lee Lam Thye today called on Members of Parliament (MPs) to give serious attention to mental health issues in the country.

He also urged the government to abolish laws criminalising suicide attempts.

Lee said a report by the World Health Organisation (WHO) on Suicide Prevention in 2014, stated that in countries where suicide is considered a criminal act, suicide attempts were often hidden and suicidal deaths went unreported, thus giving the false impression that suicidal behaviours are less prevalent.

He said that the Attorney-General should also review the legal provisions in relation to suicide to ensure it does not deter people from seeking help and not to prosecute suicide attempters.

I am calling for the decriminalisation of suicide, and to repeal Section 309 of the Penal Code because criminalisng people who attempt suicide or individuals with suicidal thoughts would be doing a great injustice to those suffering from depression, anxiety, and many other mental illnesses,” he said when contacted by Bernama, today.

“My fear is that if this law isn’t scrapped then those with suicidal thoughts would often hide and not seek help, as they may think that they would get arrested by the police and charged as a criminal if they reveal their suicidal thoughts,” he said.

Lee added there was no evidence suggesting that if this law is removed the number of suicide cases would be higher, as these are individuals who require treatment and rehabilitation and not be deemed criminals.

“I hope that the current MPs from both sides of the political divide would raise this issue in parliament and ask the relevant ministries to take up this cause to rally behind those who are suffering from mental illness,” he added.

Lee is also patron of the Befrienders Kuala Lumpur, a non-profit organisation that offers emotional support to people who are depressed or suicidal, via a 24-hour helpline (03-79568145), email ([email protected]) and face-to-face sessions.

Meanwhile, WHO has recently reported that suicide deaths are among the top 10 leading causes of death  in the world today, and the second-highest cause of death for those between the ages of 15 and 29 years.

A review by the National Health and Morbidity Survey (NHMS) stated that the suicidal rates among teenagers in Malaysia, between the ages of 13 and 17 years, showed the prevalence of plans to commit suicide increasing to 10 per cent in 2017 from 7.9 per cent in 2012,

Recent studies by the Ministry of Health shows that the prevalence of depression was 18.3 per cent where one in five teenagers suffer from depression and two in five from anxiety. — Bernama