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05 August 2017

Mental Health Authority engages 247 Judges on need to decriminalise suicide

The Mental Health Authority has teamed up with Mental Health Advocacy Ghana (MHAG) and other stakeholders to train judges on the need to decriminalise suicide.

Other facilitators of the workshop include the Ghana Psychological Association, the Department of Psychology of the University of Ghana and the Judiciary Training Institute.

The judges were given a general overview of mental illness with the following specific objectives:

1. To help judges understand mental health and also be able to identify the signs of mental illness/distress among clients brought before them.

2. To enable the judges to appreciate their role in the implementation of the mental health Act

3. To help them understand suicidal behaviour in the context of Ghana, and reasons for decriminalizing attempted suicide.

4. How to manage stress and depression among the judges themselves.

The sessions in the Greater Accra Region were organised in three groupings as:

– Judges of the Supreme Court and the Court of Appeal – 26

– Judges of the High Court – 32

– Judges and Magistrates of the lower courts – 43

The training for Justices in the Greater Accra Region commenced on June 13 and ended on June 21, 2017, with each session spanning over two days.

At the end of the six- day session, 101 judges had been trained.

This was then followed by sessions for judges in the Northern belt of Ghana, beginning with a session for judges in the three Northern regions in Tamale (14), and then to Kumasi (42) and Sunyani (21).

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The coalition then concluded the training sessions for judges in the Western region (13), Central Region (18), Eastern (17) and Volta 21. At the end of the training nationwide, 247 judges had been trained.

The presentations focused on the need to decriminalise attempted suicide which is still a criminal offence in our statutes (Section 57 Clause 2 of the 1960 Criminal Code, Act 29).

It was clearly indicated that Ghana remains one of the 25 nations in the world where attempted suicides are still punishable by law.

Mental health professionals hold the view that suicides and attempted suicides are more of mental health conditions that require empathy and help rather than criminalization.

A presentation by the Department of Psychology, University of Ghana, indicated that research supports the assertion that societies that have treated attempted suicides as mental health conditions rather than criminal offences have seen a relative increase in help seeking which may automatically result in a decrease in suicide rates. 

In those societies, people are open to talking about suicide without fear of being prosecuted, and therefore are able to get psychological assistance to mitigate the triggers of such suicidal tendencies in them.

The MHAG is a group which birthed out of the recent spate of suicides.

The group is made up of Mental Health practitioners and advocates from various specialties around the globe.

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