Mental Health and Suicide Decriminalization: Connecting the Dots

Mental Health and Suicide Decriminalization: Connecting the Dots


  • Nazish Imran Editor, Annals of KEMU / Professor, Child & Family Psychiatry Department, KEMU/Mayo Hospital, Lahore, Pakistan
  • Maryam Ayub Consultant Psychiatrist, Connections Psychiatric Services. Lahore Pakistan



Mental Health, Suicide, Decriminalization


Suicide is a current public health crisis as every year, more than 800,000 individuals die by suicide worldwide. According to World Health Organization (WHO) estimates, 77% of these deaths occur in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs). In context of mental illness only, the reported percentage of completed suicides varies from 60% to 98% of all suicides.2,3 Many of the remaining episodes have to do with interpersonal or financial issues, and the crises that follow. Nonetheless, prejudice, violence, and armed conflicts can be some of the other reasons.3 At the start of the twenty-first century, depression accounted for thirty percent of deaths worldwide from unnatural causes. Substance-use disorders came in second with eighteen percent, schizophrenia with fourteen percent, and personality disorders with thirteen percent.2

In June 2022, twenty nations had suicide attempts criminalized and subject to penalties.4 One prominent defense of criminalization of suicide was that it deters people from trying to die by suicide and thus may be a successful suicide prevention strategy but according to the literature, this idea is at best false and at worst deceptive. According to a recent study, there is no conclusive evidence that nations with criminalized suicide have lower suicide rates than the worldwide average.4.In fact, the suicide rates in five of the seven nations where it is illegal were higher than the global average.4 A recent ecological study of 171 countries has shown that suicide laws are linked to increased national suicide rates particularly among women in non-Muslim nations with low Human Development Index scores.5 Women may be more susceptible to suicidal thoughts due to the patriarchal culture's lack of support and the laws that criminalize suicide. This clearly shows that there is no positive benefit of criminalizing suicide while on the other hand research has shown that suicide rates are decreased by laws that restrict access to fatal suicide methods (pesticides, weapons, and so forth).6 While many countries do not prosecute people who attempt suicide rigorously ,7criminalization of suicide discourages people from seeking help, stigmatizes those who try suicide, and makes it difficult to accurately quantify suicide rates due to misclassification of the event because of law. The care process for people who attempt suicide is complicated by the criminalization of suicide attempts.8 Treatment can be considerably delayed by the criminal justice system.




How to Cite

Imran, N., & Ayub, M. (2024). Mental Health and Suicide Decriminalization: Connecting the Dots. Annals of King Edward Medical University, 30(1), 1–3.





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