PETALING JAYA: The government should review laws that criminalise those who attempt suicide as they could be suffering from mental illness.
Tan Sri Lee Lam Thye, a member of the Mental Health Promotion Advisory Council, said section 309 of the Penal Code is one such law that should be reviewed.
“If possible, Section 309 should be abolished because those who have attempted suicide due to mental illness must be given psychiatric treatment and rehabilitation.
“Criminalising depressed persons or those who are mentally sick is inhumane and unacceptable.
“The government and insurance companies must also play their role by ensuring that medical insurance coverage could be extended to psychiatric disorders,” he said in a statement.
Lee said issues surrounding mental health must be addressed, including combating stigma on mental health and mental illness.
The government should also take a holistic public health approach that took into consideration cross-sectoral collaboration and training of non-governmental organisations (NGOs) to address social determinants and psychosocial factors contributing to poor mental health.
Besides the Health Ministry, Lee said the Youth and Sports, as well as the Education ministries, must also collaborate to help address mental health issues among the younger generation.
“We have to take immediate action to tackle the problem of suicides since the World Health Organisation (WHO) has estimated that each year, approximately one million people die from suicide, and by 2020 the rate of death will increase to one every 20 seconds,” he added.
Lee also supported the Health Ministry’s plan to revive the National Suicide Registry of Malaysia (NSRM), adding that it was timely due to the lack of comprehensive database on suicide cases in the country. The registry could be used to facilitate further research on suicide, said Lee.
“Now that the Health Minister has expressed his commitment to address the issue of mental health in the country, it is my hope that the ministry could declare 2019 as the year to promote mental health and utilise all available resources for this purpose,” he said.