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Decriminalisation of Suicide Attempts: Our First Step to a Mental Health Revolution

Worldwide, a life is lost because of suicide every 40 seconds.

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The government recently decriminalised suicide attempts. So someone who survives a suicide attempt will not be harassed nor be punished by the authorities.

Earlier, an individual who attempted to commit suicide was punished with imprisonment up to one year under the Indian Penal Code. The ridiculous law, in practice for decades, has been finally replaced with the more humanistic Mental Healthcare Act, 2016.

This Act will ensure these people have the right to live a life with dignity and not be discriminated against or harassed by the authorities. And it’s scope is bigger than most people think. For instance, the criminalization of suicide is often used to suppress peaceful hunger strikes.

Worldwide, a life is lost because of suicide every 40 seconds. According to a WHO report, more than 56 million Indians suffer from depression – a major contributor to suicide deaths and a further 38.4 million suffer from anxiety disorders.

Most nations don’t punish the survivor. They rather seek to rehabilitate such people by providing medical support and emotional assistance for their rehabilitation. Only a few countries, like China, Pakistan, Singapore etc. continue to penalise individuals for attempting suicide.

India’s new Act finally removes it from this list.

The new Act brings a ray of hope for people living with mental illness. It defines “mental illness” as a disorder of thinking or memory that impairs judgment. The bill gives a person with mental illness the right to confidentiality and forbids them from being subjected to solitary confinement. The Supreme Court has also said that Section 309 of IPC also violates right to life as given under Article 21 of the Constitution of India.

The new law did not come easy. It took years to convince various governments to bring in this reform. But the version passed is quite revolutionary in scope. After all, the Act acknowledges that a person who attempts suicide should be presumed to have severe stress, and shall not be punished, to reduce the risk of a recurrence of the attempt to commit suicide.

This step has been welcomed by doctors, psychiatrists and counsellors for they believe this is the first step to understanding human behaviour better. Moreover, the person attempting such an extreme step should not be treated as an offender, since they are already in mental trauma and disturbed.

Post-survival care and help

Although the law to punish the person committing suicide has been prohibited, a lot still needs to be done for the mentally disturbed people. For instance:

1. The state must supplement post-operative care to further skill the individual and root them to a new environment.

2. If an individual has attempted suicide due to socio-economic reasons, then the state should provide financial incentives to resolve the problem.

3. Psychological support and care should be given to the individual. The state can seek assistance from NGOs as well as religious missionaries for this purpose.

Helping the survivors

There are several mental health organizations that provide help to those in danger. Also, several NGOs across the nation are committed to the cause of mental health. They run counseling services and suicide helplines for anyone in danger of committing suicide. Some of the NGOs are:

Thanal – 0495-237-1100
Pratheeksha – +91 484 2448830
Saath – 079-2630-5544
Roshni – 040-790-4646
Lifeline Foundation – +91-033-24637401 +91-33-24637432

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Written by LawRato

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LawRato.com is India's leading lawyer search and legal advice platform.