Lilongwe South legislator Peter Dimba (Malawi Congress Party) has asked government to decriminalise attempted suicide because the people involved tend to be mentally unstable and deserving support and not punishment.
Contributing to a report presented by Parliamentary Committee on Health on Friday on the mental health situation in the country, he said suicide is connected with mental disorder due to genuine factors, thus, sending such people to jail is not a solution.
Said Dimba: “For a person to get to a point of trying to eliminate their life it means mentally they were disturbed due to various reasons and therefore I would urge government to amend the Penal Code so that suicide attempt should not be criminal.”
He said to address the situation, government needs to prioritise public awareness on how people can seek help when faced with challenges.
In his presentation, Parliamentary Committee on Health chairperson Mathews Ngwale observed that most people with mental health illnesses are treated by general health care workers who do not have enough capacity to handle mental health problems in the districts.
He said the committee recommended the need for government to increase the capacity of healthcare workers on mental health in the country through in-service trainings.
In an earlier interview, Kamuzu University of Health Sciences clinical
psychologist Chiwoza Bandawe described the situation as serious, saying it needs to be recognised as a crisis that requires urgent attention.
“We need more qualified personnel. For example, currently we only have five psychiatrists in the whole country against a 20 million population,” he said.
Records show that police registered 256 suicide cases in the first half of this year, an increase from the 135 registered during the same period in 2022.
The records further show that of the 256 people, 226 are male and 30 are female.
Last year, 122 males committed suicide compared to 13 females.