World Mental Health Day, 10th October 2021 (2)

11 October, 2021

Nigeria is one of 20 countries around the world where it is a crime to attempt suicide. One has to ask: Do Nigerian policymakers have the information and knowledge they need to make rational and humane decisions and policies?

Thanks to Nigeria Health Watch, I was alerted to this article in The Conversation (whose motto is Disinformation is dangerous. We fight it with facts and expertise:

Any person who attempts to kill himself is guilty of a misdemeanour, and is liable to imprisonment for one year.

The article suggests three 'good reasons to urgently decriminalise attempted suicide in Nigeria'.

'First, it is inconsistent to legally define as a crime the attempt of something that in itself is not a crime.

'Second... In terms of effectiveness of deterrence, help is better than punishment. Research has shown that most that attempt suicide would be suffering from mental disorders and it would be patently unjust to punish the sick instead of caring for them.

'Finally, if attempted suicide wasn’t a crime, the associated stigma would be removed and people might feel more able to talk about it and obtain the help that they needed.'

With regards to the last point, designating attempted suicide a crime canonly add to the stigma, but people with attempted suicide carry substantial stigma in all countries, whether or not they are criminalised.

Neil Pakenham-Walsh, HIFA Coordinator,