The Mental Health Authority of Ghana is advocating for the rehabilitation of persons who attempt suicide rather than prosecuting and sentencing them to prison.
Dr. Yaw Amankwah Arthur, Head for Mental Promotion at the authority notes that the law which makes attempted suicide a crime is archaic and needs to be repealed without hesitation.
“Suicide is criminalised in Ghana but the mental health authority is advocating for its decriminalisation. You see, that law was made in 1960 by the British. They made the law for us and in the following year 1961, they repealed the same law in Britain. The British now provide psychological rehabilitation for people who attempt suicide and do not jail them. After rehabilitation, these people come back fit and contribute effectively to their communities. Sadly 50 years down the line, Ghana still prosecutes persons who attempt suicide,” he noted sadly.
He emphasised that Ghana’s colonial masters who criminalised suicide have repealed the law in their country, and is now focused on saving lives while Ghana is still regarding the old laws. “You hardly hear of people maimed after accidents try to kill themselves but people suffer psychological problems so painful they decide suicide is the way out. So you can imagine the person failing to kill themselves and is then arrested and punished. Doing that only means we’ve granted the person the opportunity to try again.”
Speaking to Raymond Nyamador on the Happy Morning show, Dr. Yaw Amankwah Arthur indicated that the Ghanaian government must focus on helping people who attempt suicide rather than prosecute them. “We need to help them recover so they can contribute to the development of Ghana.”
According to him, persons who attempt to take their own lives or commit suicide need counselling to reform rather than being criminalised in line with the Criminal Offences Act.
Pursuant to section 57 of the Criminal Act – 1960 (Act 29), a person who abets the commission of suicide commits a first-degree felony whether or not the suicide is actually committed; a person who attempts to commit suicide commits a misdemeanour – which attracts a punishment, a term of imprisonment not exceeding three years.
In fact, the prosecution must establish two basic elements: “Mens Rea”- guilty mind or intention accompanied by “Actus Reus” (prohibited act) – and must equally prove these two elements beyond a reasonable doubt pursuant to section 13(1) of NRCD.323