Malaysian Perspective of Suicide

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Polis Diraja Malaysia (PDRM) merekodkan 631 kes bunuh diri sepanjang tahun 2020 dan 468 kes dalam tempoh Januari hingga Mei 2021. – BERITA HARIAN (1 JULAI 2021)

Due to a lack of awareness on the validity behind mental health issues, there is a tendency for mental illness to be chalked down as ‘something that went wrong’ with the people who dare to share about their struggles. From the example above, we can see that one of the main barriers of treating or recognizing mental illness is social stigma.

Suicide or attempted suicide is a crime in Malaysia, according to Section 309 of the Penal Code. It can result in a one-year prison sentence, a fine, or both. The fundamental question that arises is whether or not persons who try or are involved in suicide should be prosecuted in the criminal justice system. The most important parts is the mentality behind suicide, the reasons for its criminalization and decriminalisation, and what has been done in Malaysia in terms of mental health.

Suicide and attempted suicide are still considered a crime in several countries. Any form of assisted-suicide, inclusive of assistance from a physician is considered illegal in China. In Singapore, anyone who attempts suicide can be sent to prison for up to a full year.

The World Health Organization (WHO) believes that criminalization prevents people from seeking treatment, which raises rather than decreases the risk of suicide. The focus of criminalization appears to be on assigning blame. Criminalisation may even motivate those attempting suicide to ensure that they don’t fail, instead of surviving and having to meet their punishment. Suicidal cases should be seen by a psychiatrist or psychologist for further management. Attempters would find more help in counselling and rehabilitation in comparison to court proceedings.

Criminalization of suicide stems from a matter of belief. English law perceived suicide as an immoral, criminal offence against God and also against the King. In terms of the Christian perspective, God had crafted us in His image and therefore our life is sacred. Only the Creator can rightfully destroy either life or liberty. He gave us both, and only He can rightfully separate us from them. In terms of the Islam religion, their basic belief lies in the protection of humanity. One of their foundational goals is to preserve the life of human beings. Islam strongly prohibits suicide due to its teachings on the sanctity of life. The religion provides comfort to the distraught to not give in to their despair, and try their utmost best to get out of their conundrums while putting their faith in God.

Over the years, our Malaysian government has taken a few steps to address mental health challenges. The Mental Health Act of 2001 and the National Mental Health Policy were imposed. State Police Central Intelligence and Crime Unit officer DSP Yazrie Ismail explained his take on suicide cases, firmly believing that such cases should not be brought to court so as not add more stress to the accused. His line of reasoning surrounds the welfare of the person involved; the persons’ mental and psychological condition should not be intensified further. The Malaysian government announced the National Mental Health Strategic Action Plan in late 2016, in response to the growing number of Malaysians suffering from mental illnesses. The five-year plan (2016-2020) sets out the primary mental health goals for the government, non-governmental organisations (NGOs), businesses, schools, and the general public, according to Health Director-General Datuk Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah. The strategy, which is now in the drafting stage, is aligned with the WHO’s comprehensive mental health action plan (2013-2020) to address the rise in mental health cases in Malaysian society.

Mental Health Daily, “Is Suicide Illegal? Suicide Laws by Country”, July 2014,

Prof. William Wagner, Prof. John S.Kane, Lauren Prieb, “How Suicide Killing of Human Life Became A Human Right In The United Kingdom”,

Khairunisya Hanafi, “What you must know about suicide law reform in Singapore”, 22 September 2016, The Middle Ground,

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