Malaysia’s most devastating social problem is a growing mental health crisis and its increasingly common outcome: suicide. Back in July, Malaysian police released the astonishing figure of 468 suicides in the first five months of 2021 – that is an average of three a day, nearly double the rate in 2020.
What’s more shocking is that Malaysia is one of only 25 countries worldwide, and one of only three member states of the 10-country Association of Southeast Asian Nations, that still criminalises it. With the increasing numbers, many have called out to the government to decriminalise it and take on mental health issues seriously.
Fortunately, today (7 Oct) the Home Ministry and Attorney-General’s Chambers (AGC) have agreed to abolish Section 309 of the Penal Code that criminalises attempted suicide.
To refresh, Section 309 of the Penal Code states that those who are unsuccessful in their suicide attempt could face charges and penalties amounting to imprisonment of up to a year, or a fine, or both.
According to FMT, Deputy Health Minister II Datuk Aaron Ago Dagang said the matter will be brought to the cabinet.
“Suicide cases under Section 309, which states that attempting suicide is an offence, have been a topic of discussion for a long time, and the process (of abolition) is underway. I understand that the Home Ministry and AGC have agreed to abolish Section 309 related to suicide attempts, and now, the matter will be brought to the cabinet.
“Amendments will be made to Section 309 so that those who attempt to commit suicide will not be found guilty,” he said during Minister’s question time at Dewan Rakyat.
Dagang also said the abolition of Section 309 had been discussed for a long time by the government.
In terms of the government’s long-term strategy in mitigating mental health issues and suicide among Malaysians, he said the health ministry has developed a national mental health strategic plan up to 2025.
This will be launched on 10 Oct in conjunction with World Mental Health Day.
He noted that the ministry aims to boost its mental health and psychosocial support services, working with NGOs to increase access to these services, especially for those in need.
The psychosocial support helpline will allow ministry personnel to counsel those struggling with mental health issues and even bring them to the hospital to be examined and treated, if necessary.