The Continental Representative, LifeLine International, Prof.Taiwo Sheikh, has called for the implementation of the suicide decriminalisation agenda to advance suicide prevention and support in Nigeria.
Sheikh, a Lecturer, Psychiatric Department, Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria, made the call in an interview with the Newsmen in Lagos on Thursday.
He said that a major barrier to suicide prevention and control was the law that criminalises attempted suicide.
According to him, it is has become imperative for Nigeria to decriminalise attempted suicide following the completion of two significant policy milestones at government level.
He explained that under the leadership of Prof. Mohammed Ali Pate, Coordinating Minister of Health and Social Welfare, Nigeria has launched its National Suicide Prevention Strategic Framework and Revised National Mental Health Policy.
In addition, he said the 64th National Council on Health adopted the National Suicide Prevention Framework, committing the 36 States of the Federation to its implementation, including decriminalisation.
“Both policies call for decriminalisation, recognising the critical role this change will enable in shifting the focus from punishment to care for people in critical distress.
These major advances in the approach to suicide prevention and the modernising of mental health legislation, show Nigeria’s leadership in changing policy and action to support people in deep distress and despair. Lifeline International applauds this development, and recognises the potential for crisis intervention services, like those run by LifeLine International members, to quickly adapt once the laws change to challenge stigma that hinder help seeking. Implementation of the decriminalisation agenda will now continue with the Attorney General of the Federal Republic of Nigeria,” Sheikh said.
According to him, as part of efforts to decriminalise suicide worldwide, a global campaign launched in October by LifeLine International, Nigeria was named as a focus country.
“Lifeline International is now focused on working with civil society – crisis line services, mental health charities, religious groups, academics and clinicians to make sure the legislation passes regardless if it is a government or a private member’s bill. Changing these laws will help us save lives,” Sheikh added.
Sheikh said that the Nigerian suicide rates was 6.9 per 100,000 as reported to the World Health Organisation (WHO), using 2019 figures.
He explained that across a country of 218 million people, this reported suicide rate equates to around 15,000 people dying by suicide each year.
This, he said, also equates to 300,000 people attempting to end their life annually (allowing for ratio of 20 people to each death by suicide).
According to him, information on Nigeria’s suicide decriminalisation status can be found at www.suicide-decrim.network, a bespoke website launched as part of our global campaign for informed activists.
“I encourage every organisation in Nigeria that wants to support the decriminalisation of suicide to join the campaign through the platform and be a part of the change. It is wonderful to see government taking policy leadership. As a community, we can do much more to ensure this translates into legislation, successfully passing the Parliament,” Sheikh said.