Mr. Derrick Mensah, a Mental Health advocate and Executive Director of Medicaid Ghana, a Ghanaian NGO, believes some MPs’ opposition to suicide decriminalization is “retrogressive thinking.”
In an interview with Nana Ama Doe, on iDO GH News, Mr. Mensah, also known as Demens, said suicide survivors should not be imprisoned but rather treated like people with some form of mental illness.
“To imply that someone should be punished because he has a disease is the same as stating that someone is obese and doctors have urged him to lose weight… Because they are likely to die, we should penalize them for not decreasing weight,” he explained.
The host of the show noted that in 2019, some members of parliament, including the First Deputy Speaker, Joe Osei Owusu, and the Minority Leader, Haruna Iddrisu, rejected calls for the decriminalization of suicide in parliament sometime in
Mr. Demens, on the other hand, believes that since Britain, which introduced the law to Ghana during the colonial era, and other countries have already repealed it, there is no reason for the country to keep it.
“…it is retrogressive to believe that sick people should be punished, and there is no place in the law where we can legislate treatment. We don’t use laws to treat any condition, so the legislature should look into this… We can’t provide good mental health care for these people, so we punish them for being sick.”
He also refuted the Deputy Speaker’s claim that nobody in the country has ever been jailed for suicide.
He said, “in 2011 one Kwadwo Ababio was jailed for three months. In 2015, another man, Enoch Kogo who attempted suicide was jailed for two years… that means that people who are productive if we send them to jail because they are ill then we lose our brain potential.”
Mr Demens said the existence of the law does not only prevent survivors from telling their story but also makes it difficult for studies to be carried out on suicidal behavior in the country.
“I speak to many young people with bipolar disorder who have attempted suicide before, and as a mental health practitioner, if this law remains in effect, I will have to report all of them because they all committed a crime.” “I wanted to bring some young people out to share their stories…
Unfortunately, I was unable to obtain their immunity from prosecution. If they come, they’ll confess to a crime,” he added.