To save life of mental patients, decriminalise suicide, say experts

Tuesday, March 5th, 2024 10:00 | By
Mental health illnesses. Photo used for representational purposes.
Mental health illnesses. Photo used for representational purposes. Photo/internet

Rejection of mental health survivors by families and stigma has overshadowed the achievements at the Mathari National Teaching and Referral Hospital (MNTRH), the National Assembly Committee on Health heard yesterday.

Committee noted that the facility had improved from 2019, when the MPs last visited it. “We have seen some improvements in the hospital from the time we were here last,” said Committee chair Dr Robert Pukose said.

However, the hospital management raised a number of other issues they feel need the attention of the lawmakers, in order to enable patients access services and improve quality of healthcare.

For the umpteenth time, the psychiatrists called on the decriminalisation of suicide, describing the colonial law as a barrier to access to mental healthcare services.

Hospital chief executive Dr Julius Ogato explained that when a criminal act happens, it is reported to the police and not the hospital.

“So, number one, the liberty of a sick person is being deprived when jailed, and taking their right away from seeking treatment,” he said, further elaborating that such a person needs rescue, protection and care, and not to be taken to jail.

And so, the moment a criminal act is replaced with a disease as a sign of an underlined condition, the MPs further learnt that the perception changes and then people know that such persons are sick and need help.

“And this is one way of addressing the stigma around suicide. Right now, if one has suicidal ideas, they are seen as weak. It is wrong,” Dr Ogato heard.

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