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Suicide in Malaysia—Still A Crime [An Infographic] (English)

Arijey Sura, Koh Hui Hong, Chiah Zhi Shen, Cheam Yean Quen, Leong Zhao Chuen, Faris Durrani
21 pages
October 10, 2021
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Suicide is a serious global public health issue, taking an average of 700,000 lives every year (with population growth)—with many more unsuccessful attempts. At the time of writing, suicide attempts in Malaysia are chargeable as a criminal offence under Section 309 of the Penal Code, a legacy of British colonial law that is still in place. Section 309 is an archaic law that demands expedited revision by the Attorney-General’s Chambers. Across the entire history of this law, no data to date suggests that the existence of a penalty towards the attempt of suicide deters the act. The law has only punished vulnerable individuals who are already suffering from significant stress and other mental health issues. This law has prevented the open discourse of trauma, discouraged seeking help amidst suicidal ideation, and intimidates individuals looking to obtain support post suicide attempt—overall undermining necessary pragmatic measures that reduce the likelihood of a suicidal relapse. This paper, therefore, recommends the complete repeal of section 309 as done in Singapore. While the decriminalisation of suicide is vital to ensure that individuals struggling with suicidal ideations would feel safe to seek help - on its own, it does very little to prevent and effectively reduce a country’s suicide rate. Hence, decriminalising suicide is only the first step of the reformation towards robust suicide prevention. It is of utmost importance that mental health support is provided at all stages—in identifying individuals who are at risk, in providing a frontline response to a suicide crisis, and in follow-up care to reduce the chances of a relapse.

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