Parliament of Ghana decriminalizes attempted suicide

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The Criminal Offenses Act of 1960 has been modified by Parliament, making it a felony to try suicide.

As a result of the amendment approved by Parliament on Tuesday, March 28, people who try suicide will be treated as having mental health problems and needing legal help rather than being imprisoned.

Prior to now, some lawmakers had opposed demands to decriminalize suicide attempts.

Former Minority Leader Haruna Iddrisu stated in 2019 during a debate in Parliament about whether or not to decriminalize the act that attempting suicide should be treated as a crime and not be excused.

The Tamale South MP said suicide is unacceptable behavior and that demands for its decriminalization should not be followed.

The perpetrators of the crime should be penalized, he continued, to discourage others, particularly young people, from repeating it.

“You do not want to think that when you have depression and distress, the ultimate thing is that you go and take your life since you cannot recover your life back,” Hon Iddrisu said.

However, Prof. Akwesi Osei, CEO of the Mental Health Authority, revealed during the opening of a contact center in Accra that the organization has started the process of decriminalizing suicide, arguing that it is a medical condition that requires treatment rather than incarceration.

This comes after the “unprecedented wave” of suicide and suicide attempt instances in 2017, particularly among young people.

Prof. Osei observed that even the terminology used to characterize cases involving attempted suicide raises concerns and argued against criminalizing such behavior.

In order to achieve this, Ghanaian medical professionals have recently advocated for the legislation to be changed, arguing that attempted suicide is a medical condition that requires medical care rather than incarceration.

Some people who had survived suicide attempts had also demanded funding for prevention.

Meanwhile, each year, 1,500 suicide cases are recorded nationally.


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