Group launches campaign to Condemn increase in suicide rate

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A global civil society organisation dedicated to suicide prevention, LifeLine International, on Monday, launched a campaign to condemn Suicide rate worldwide, with a focus on changing the laws in African countries where suicide remains a crime.

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The first phase of the campaign will focus on advocating for legislative change in Nigeria and Malawi, two countries that criminalise attempted suicide and where there is strong and growing momentum for change.

In Africa, there are at least eleven countries with a combined population of half a billion where attempted suicide remains a criminal offence, according to a new Campaign Brief by LifeLine International with input from the International Bar Association.

According to a statement made available to newsmen, revealed that laws criminalising suicide are generally associated with higher suicide rates because they are ineffective deterrents and inhibit people in suicidal distress from seeking help.

“Decriminalising suicide will help achieve the UN’s Sustainable Development Goal to decrease global suicide rates by 30 per cent by 2030. Where we seek to change laws, LifeLine International will also work to either establish or enhance crisis line services. In Nigeria and Malawi, LifeLine International will leverage the organisation’s extensive and global campaigning, coalition-building and policy reform experience, engaging extensively with civil society, governments, and service providers to achieve tangible change. Decriminalisation has gathered positive momentum in the last five years, with legal reform completed in Ghana, Malaysia, Pakistan, India and Singapore. As part of the campaign, two digital platforms launch today – A social change campaign platform serving as the public face of the campaign, and a bespoke knowledge platform for experts, NGOs, civil society, and crisis support services to accelerate decriminalisation,” the statement read in part.

LifeLine CEO Thilini Perera said: “Through our knowledge platform, we are bridging the gap between countries, to advocate for change. LifeLine International’s commitment to using innovative technology and galvanising support will accelerate decriminalisation campaigns, allowing people living in countries where suicide remains a crime to receive the help they deserve. We are proud to open-source our knowledge to support network participants. Our platform will enable us to track progress and move closer to a world where suicide is decriminalised, stigma is reduced, and help-seeking is both accessible and encouraged.”

On the launch of the campaign, Lifeline International African Coordinator, Prof. Taiwo Sheikh called on governments across the continent to accelerate progress, decriminalise suicide, and implement prevention measures: “The decriminalisation of suicide in Africa is an urgent priority given the number of archaic laws that need to be repealed on the continent. Criminalisation is the opposite of compassionate care and does not deter suicide attempts, nor does it address the underlying issues of suicide ideation. It goes against Africa’s cultural and religious values, which emphasise empathy and understanding.

“LifeLine International is committed to working with its Members on the continent and other actors of change – including Africa CDC – building on impressive ongoing efforts across the continent. The campaign will leverage the health agency’s convening and policy-making power to secure policy reform. Decriminalisation of suicide is also supported by the World Health Organisation – a position endorsed by health ministers in 2013,” he said.