Tuesday, February 7, 2023

Group rejects Reps’ proposed law to punish any Nigerian who attempts suicide

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The Suicide Research and Prevention Initiative, SURPIN, a Non-Governmental Organisation, says the House of Representatives’ proposed amendment of a law seeking community service as punishment for attempted suicide may be counter-productive.

SURPIN’s National Coordinator and Consultant at Lagos University Hospital, Idi-Arabia, Dr Raphael Ogbolu, said this in a statement on Friday in Lagos.

SURPIN was inaugurated in March 2017 as an initiative of LUTH for suicide prevention through research, crisis intervention, health education and early treatment of depression and drug abuse.

According to Mr Ogbolu, suicide which is the act of killing oneself remains a major public health concern.

While faulting the proposed amendment of the law, Mr Ogbolu said addressing suicide prevention would only be meaningful if one fully understands it as disorder and depression.

“Depression is a medical and mental disorder which can be severely disabling, impacting on the persons mental and general well-being.

“Common symptoms include low mood, low energy and loss of interest in things that usually provide pleasure or happy meaning to the person.

“Left untreated, it can often culminate in feelings of helplessness and hopelessness, the latter of which is a strong predictor of suicide.

“Depression is not deliberate and is not laziness; depression, like many mental disorders, cannot be prevented by vaccination, and nobody is immune, however depression is treatable,” he said.

Mr Ogbolu, advised that instead of community service, such punishment should be replaced with medical and social rehabilitation and treatments funded by the state for up to an initial period of six months.

He said that this should either be voluntarily or involuntarily, and renewable in consonance with the applicable mental health law.

“We believe that this is more empathetic and in keeping with international best practice.

“It will go a long way in providing succour to many people who suffer from depression and other mental disorders that drive suicidality, ” he said.

The House had on February 15, passed for second reading, a bill seeking to amend the Criminal Code Act, Cap. C38, Laws 2004, sponsored by a member, Francis Waive.

The legislation is titled “A Bill for an Act to Amend the Criminal Code Act Cap C38 LFN 2004, to Provide for a More Rational Punishment for the Offence of Attempted Suicide, and For Related Matters”.

“The first fault is that the amendment still implies the prescription of punishment in the form of community service as a solution,  this should be completely expunged.

“There should be no punishment for someone who has attempted suicide.

“Community service in any form for someone struggling with depression or other mental disorders does not mitigate the attendant suffering from symptoms associated with the disorder, and does not promote recovery.

“The second fault is the ‘compulsory’ component of the amendment; this should not be absolute,” Mr Ogbolu said.

The coordinator said that people should be given the opportunity to voluntarily engage, adding that any compulsory approach should be the exception rather than the norm or expectation.


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