Ghana Psychological Association welcomes decriminalisation of attempted suicide 

Accra, March 31, GNA – The Ghana Psychological Association (GPA) has welcomed the passage of the Criminal Offences (Amendment) Bill, 2021, which seeks to decriminalise attempted suicide. 

A statement issued by Dr Isaac Newman Arthur, National Public Relations Officer of GPA, copied to the Ghana News Agency said the mental health professionals’ community including GPA, welcomed the great news.  

The GPA congratulated Parliament and the sponsors of the Bill for the great gesture done for the people of Ghana.  

“We hope this will start a ripple effect around the world, encouraging other countries to do the same.”   

The statement said it had been more than a decade since the fight to decriminalize attempted suicide intensified, with various mental health professional bodies, including GPA, engaging parliament on that subject.  

“Thankfully, on March 28, 2023, Ghana’s parliament passed a bill to decriminalize attempted suicide,” it said. 

“This is a major breakthrough that solidifies efforts to provide mental healthcare services for a distressed person attempting suicide.” 

The statement said suicide was the second leading cause of death amongst 15–19-year-olds, and men under 45 years. It said a recent psychological study confirms that 135 people are affected by one suicide loss (Cerel et al. 2018) and there was a need to aggressively prioritize suicide prevention and intervention after attempts.  

It said many countries in the world had decriminalized attempted suicide and had strengthened mental health advocacy and healthcare efforts in this regard.  

It explained that attempted suicide was a psychological emergency under mental health, just as a heart attack was a physical health emergency; stating that “why do you criminalize the former and not the latter?” 

The statement said over the years, the nation’s understanding of health, especially mental health had improved, though there was a huge knowledge gap regarding the knowledge of the populace including law and policymakers globally relating to mental health issues.  

It said this had resulted in the neglect of the mental health needs of the populace, underfunding of mental healthcare, and inadequate mental health professionals, especially in low-income countries.  

It said that coupled with stigmatization, negative cultural perceptions and practices, and over-spiritualization of mental disorders, there was reduced patronization of mental health services by persons living with mental illnesses, including those with suicidal ideation and behaviours.  

The statement said according to Section 57(2) of the Criminal Offenses Act, 1960 (Act 29) of Ghana, attempted suicide was classified as a misdemeanour.  

It said per section 296 (4) of the Criminal Offenses (Procedure) Act, 1960 (Act 30), the punishment for misdemeanours was a term of imprisonment not exceeding 3 years.  

It noted that this ACT was meant to dissuade any citizen of Ghana from attempting suicide.  

It said regardless of the law, suicide attempts had seen an increase over the years with up to about 1500 deaths by suicide yearly in Ghana.  

Globally, over 800,000 people die by suicide; one suicide every 40 seconds, with most of them suffering from depression and other mental illnesses.  

At the time someone dies by suicide, 20 more others would be attempting it; adding that women attempt suicide three times more than men, however, men die four times more by suicide than women, it added.