MP tells govt to decriminalise suicide as cases have surged amid pandemic

Dr Kelvin Yii speaking in Parliament (file picture).

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KUCHING, Nov 4:  A Democratic Action Party (DAP) MP has urged the Perikatan Nasional (PN) government to repeal Section 309 of the Penal Code to decriminalise attempted suicide.

Decriminalising attempted suicide will help deal with the issue especially with increasing cases of suicides brought on by anxiety and stress induced by the current Covid-19 pandemic.

Bandar Kuching MP Dr Kelvin Yii said since the start of the pandemic and the implementation of restrictive interventions such as the MCO (Movement Control Order), experts including Mental Health associations, centres and even clinics have reported a significant increase of mental health cases among the people.

“Many are finding it hard to cope with isolation and economic hardship,” said Dr Yii who produced the following statistics to support his view.

According to the police, there were 78 suicides nationwide from March 18, when the shutdown began, until June 9. There were 64 suicides Malaysian think tank The Centre in April said a study it conducted found that some 45 percent of 1,084 Malaysian respondents were experiencing varying levels of anxiety and depression during the MCO.

A total of 34 percent of 4,142 calls received by the Befrienders between March 18 and May 16 were related to the Covid-19 outbreak. Over a third of the calls about Covid-19 were suicidal in nature.

The Health Ministry also reported that it received some 2,500 phone calls and more than 1,000 WhatsApp messages between March 28 and April 12, during the early days of the MCO, on its Psychological First Aid hotline.

“So we have seen clear trends of an increase in either suicide, possible attempts and even ideation due to what experts have termed the ‘silent mental health pandemic’ due to Covid-19.

“That is why the government must be proactive and show more urgency in dealing with this issue holistically. They should not be treated as an ‘accused’ but rather a patient who needs all the required therapy and support,” said Dr Yii in a statement today.

He believed that it is also important to note that decriminalisation should not be the sole step to address this growing issue.

“There also has to be a greater investment into Malaysian Suicide Prevention and Strategic Action Plan and also a reform on the Malaysian Suicide Registry. On top of that, an extension of insurance coverage for mental health will also go a long way to help de-stigmatise and properly address this growing issue,” said Dr Yii.— DayakDaily