Recently, the Suicide worldwide 2019 report has been published by the WHO.
Key Findings of Suicide worldwide 2019 report
It shows that some 703,000 people or one in a 100, died by suicide in 2019.
- More than half of global suicides (58 per cent) occurred before the age of 50 years.
- Suicide was the 4th-leading cause of death among young people aged 15-29 globally in 2019, according to the Suicide worldwide 2019 report.
- Some 77 per cent of global suicides in 2019 occurred in low- and middle-income countries. On an average, 9 out of every 100,000 people ended their lives in the world.
- But, three WHO regions — Africa, Europe and South-East Asia — recorded suicide rates higher than the global average. This number was highest in the WHO Africa region (11.2) followed by Europe (10.5) and South-East Asia (10.2).
- The report noted that in 20 years (2000-2019), the global suicide rate had decreased by 36 per cent. The decrease ranged from 17 per cent in the Eastern Mediterranean Region to 47 per cent in the European Region and 49 per cent in the Western Pacific Region.
- The Region of the Americas recorded a substantial 17 per cent increase in the suicide rate during the same period and has been an exception.
United Nations-mandated Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)
Reducing the global suicide mortality rate by a third is both, an indicator and a target (the only one for mental health) in the United Nations-mandated Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
- However, despite this overall decline, the world will not be able to achieve the SDGs concerning mental health.
The SDGs call on countries to reduce premature mortality from non-communicable diseases by a third, by 2030 through prevention and treatment and to promote mental health and well-being.
Although some countries have placed suicide prevention high on their agendas, too many countries remain uncommitted, the report said. Currently, only 38 countries are known to have a national suicide prevention strategy.
The WHO had published new LIVE LIFE guidelines to help countries reduce the global suicide mortality rate by a third by 2030. These are:
- Limiting access to the means of suicide, such as highly hazardous pesticides and firearms.
- Educating the media on responsible reporting of suicide.
- Fostering socio-emotional life skills in adolescents.
- Early identification, assessment, management and follow-up of anyone affected by suicidal thoughts and behaviour.
Section 309 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC)
- One of the most archaic laws that punishes attempts to commit suicide – Section 309 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC)— contrary to popular perception that it has been repealed, continues to exist in the statute book and, as reports suggest, is often misused.
Who can be booked under Section 309 IPC? What punishment does it carry? Why is it there to begin with?
- Anyone who survives an attempted suicide can be booked under Section 309 IPC, which deals with “Attempt to commit suicide”.
- The section reads: “Whoever attempts to commit suicide and does any act towards the commission of such offence, shall be punished with simple imprisonment for a term which may extend to one year (or with fine, or with both)”.
- The law, brought in by the British in the 19th century, reflected the thinking of the time, when killing or attempting to kill oneself was considered a crime against the state, as well as against religion.
But wasn’t Section 309 repealed a few years back?
- No. The section continues to remain in the IPC. What has happened though, is that The Mental Healthcare Act (MHCA), 2017, which came into force in July 2018, has significantly reduced the scope for the use of Section 309 IPC — and made the attempt to commit suicide punishable only as an exception.
- Section 115(1) of The MHCA says: “Notwithstanding anything contained in section 309 of the Indian Penal Code any person who attempts to commit suicide shall be presumed, unless proved otherwise, to have severe stress and shall not be tried and punished under the said Code.”
- Section 115(2) says that “The appropriate Government shall have a duty to provide care, treatment and rehabilitation to a person, having severe stress and who attempted to commit suicide, to reduce the risk of recurrence of attempt to commit suicide.”
What problems can arise out of the use of this Section?
- Chennai based psychiatrist Dr Laxmi Vijaykumar, who is also a member of the WHO’s Network on Suicide Research and Prevention, said that use of this Section can potentially deprive a victim of treatment in the golden hour, as hospitals wait for a go-ahead from police in what would be seen as a “medico-legal case”.
- It is possible that unscrupulous hospital authorities may misuse this situation and charge extra to “hush up” the case by not informing the police; similar extortion is possible on the part of corrupt police personnel as well.
- All of this is in addition to the trauma and harassment that an already severely distressed individual and people around him/her would likely be going through. Only 24 countries around the world have a section such as this in their laws
Efforts Taken to Repeal this Law
- 1971: The Law Commission in its 42nd Report recommended the repeal of Section 309 IPC.
- 1978: The IPC (Amendment) Bill, 1978, was even passed by Rajya Sabha, but before it could be passed by Lok Sabha, Parliament was dissolved, and the Bill lapsed.
- 1996: In ‘Gian Kaur vs State of Punjab’, a Constitution Bench of the Supreme Court upheld the constitutional validity of Section 309.
- 2008: The Law Commission in its 210th Report said that an attempt to suicide needed medical and psychiatric care, and not punishment.
- 2011: The Supreme Court recommended to Parliament that it should consider the feasibility of deleting the section.
- The Delhi High Court stated that if Section 309 is restricted in its application to attempts to commit suicide which are cowardly and which are unworthy, then only this section would be in consonance with Article 21.
- National Mental Health Programme (NMHP) in 1982
- Mental Healthcare Act, 2017
- Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act, 2017
- Manodarpan Initiative
- To relieve the distress of the student community during the Covid-19 pandemic, the Government has launched Central University of Odisha Helpline “Bharosa’’.
The report said these needed to go hand-in-hand with foundational pillars like situation analysis, multi-sectoral collaboration, awareness raising capacity building, financing, surveillance and monitoring and evaluation.
Reports and Indices : Click Here