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Experts ask Gov't to stop criminalising suicide

By Douglas Mubiru

Added 10th October 2019 11:17 PM

“We request the government, Police officers who are here, help us and decriminalize suicide because we are not capturing the actual number of victims.

Experts ask Gov't to stop criminalising suicide

“We request the government, Police officers who are here, help us and decriminalize suicide because we are not capturing the actual number of victims.


Officials and experts in mental health have called on Ugandans to shift from blame games and offer support to mentally sick people who are potential suicide victims, as a way of curbing the increasing number of deaths by suicide.

Derrick Kizza Mbuga, the executive director, Mental Health Uganda (MHU) implored the government to stop criminalizing suicide and scrap it from the Penal Code Act.

He said the law has scared off many people from reporting suicide cases.

"We request the government, Police officers who are here, help us and decriminalize suicide because we are not capturing the actual number of victims.

It is so because the survivors fear to report and the relative victims too, simply because they're likely to be charged. So, I pray we consider it as an illness and reverb at sensitising the masses on how to overcome it," Mbuga said.

Speaking at the commemoration of World Mental Health Day of Thursday, Dr. Hafswa Lukwata, a senior medical officer at the ministry of health, noted that lack of support coupled with cultural beliefs and stigma are some of the major causes of suicide.

"We should advise these people before suicide. Do not blame anyone because it changes nothing. This is a mental illness that needs rehabilitation and excessive support.

"So I want to call upon the public to report any cases of anyone who threatens to commit suicide because what they say later comes true, hence a life lost," Lukwata said.

The commemoration was held at Hotel Africana, Kampala, under the theme, ‘Working Together to Prevent Suicide.'

Statistics from the WHO indicate that a life is lost every 40 seconds globally with most deaths recorded amongst people aged between 15-29 years. 79% of the victims come from low developed countries.

Most common methods used, according to WHO include ingestion of pesticides, hanging, and firearms.

Kizza explained that suicide victims go through a lot of depression and bullying and that explains why there is needed to rehabilitate them so as to avert the vice.

He also cautioned the public to be vigilant on suicide signs such as; excessive sadness or moodiness, sudden calmness, dangerous or self-harmful behavior, recent trauma or life crisis, telling loved ones bye and writing unusual bye notice.

"These signs may at times alert you that someone may commit suicide, so, don't hesitate to report to police or help such a person before it's too late," he added.

Detective Assistant Superintendent of Police, Isaac Sembera, attached to the CID Homicide Department said that mentally ill people need crucial self-care for them to know that whatever they think is wrong.

"You can save a life, learn to handle the difficulties and make someone know that he/she matters, that is when we shall curb the vice and save our citizens. Let us speak about suicide and the more we do it, the more we shall curb it," Sembera said.

Sarah Tusemerirwe, a victim who for several times attempted suicide but has been rehabilitated urged the public to share challenges so that solutions to suicide are got.

"I want to encourage you to be a winner but not a loser and remember not to blame anyone after suicide but get solutions before it happens, I am speaking this out of experience," Tusemerirwe said.



World Mental Health Day is a day for global mental health education, awareness and advocacy against social stigma. Every 10th October, thousands of supporters come to celebrate this annual awareness program to bring attention to mental illness and its major effects on peoples' life worldwide.

It was first celebrated in 1992 at the initiative of the World Federation for Mental Health, a global mental health organization with members and contacts in more than 150 countries.

Theme 2019: Mental Health Promotion and Suicide Prevention

Mental health is defines as the level of psychological well-being or an absence of mental illness. It is the state of someone who is functioning at a satisfactory level of emotional and behavioural adjustment.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), mental health includes subjective well-being, perceived self-efficacy, autonomy, competence, inter-generational dependence, and self-actualization of one's intellectual and emotional potential, among others.

The WHO further states that the well-being of an individual is encompassed in the realization of their abilities, coping with normal stresses of life, productive work, and contribution to their community. Cultural differences, subjective assessments, and competing for professional theories all affect how one defines mental health.

A mental illness, however, is a condition that affects a person's thinking, feeling or mood. Such conditions may affect someone's ability to relate to others and function each day. Each person will have different experiences, even people with the same diagnosis.

Mental disorder also called mental illness or psychiatric disorder, is a behavioral or mental pattern that causes significant distress or impairment of personal functioning. Such features may be persistent, relapsing and remitting, or occur as a single episode. Many disorders have been described, with signs and symptoms that vary widely between specific disorders. Such disorders may be diagnosed by a mental health professional.

Common examples of signs and symptoms include:

Feeling sad or down

Confused thinking or reduced ability to concentrate

Excessive fears or worries, or extreme feelings of guilt

Extreme mood changes of highs and lows

Withdrawal from friends and activities

Significant tiredness, low energy or problems sleeping

Detachment from reality (delusions), paranoia or hallucinations

Inability to cope with daily problems or stress

Trouble understanding and relating to situations and to people

Problems with alcohol or drug use

Major changes in eating habits

Sex drive changes

Excessive anger, hostility or violence

Suicidal thinking

Mental illnesses, in general, are thought to be caused by a variety of genetic and environmental factors:

Inherited traits. Mental illness is more common in people whose blood relatives also have a mental illness. Certain genes may increase your risk of developing a mental illness, and your life situation may trigger it.

Environmental exposures before birth. Exposure to environmental stressors, inflammatory conditions, toxins, alcohol or drugs while in the womb can sometimes be linked to mental illness.

Brain chemistry. Neurotransmitters are naturally occurring brain chemicals that carry signals to other parts of your brain and body. When the neural networks involving these chemicals are impaired, the function of nerve receptors and nerve systems change, leading to depression and other emotional disorders.

Certain factors may increase your risk of developing a mental illness, and the may  include:

A history of mental illness in a blood relative, such as a parent or sibling

Stressful life situations, such as financial problems, a loved one's death or a divorce

An ongoing (chronic) medical condition, such as diabetes

Brain damage as a result of a serious injury (traumatic brain injury), such as a violent blow to the head

Traumatic experiences, such as military combat or assault

Use of alcohol or recreational drugs

A childhood history of abuse or neglect

Few friends or few healthy relationships

A previous mental illness

Uganda ranks among the top six countries with the highest cases of mental illness in Africa and has a 33 percent overall global ranking.

Poverty, drug abuse, rising burden of diseases such as diabetes and cancer, civil war are to blame for the rising cases of mental disorders, reported the Parliamentary Committee on Health in 2018.

The report further reported a treatment gap of 83 per cent, and that most of the patients, especially in rural areas, resort to spiritual solutions that are unscientific and only serve to worsen their conditions.





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