Lighting the First Candle

“The only difference between a suicide and a martyrdom really is the amount of press coverage.” ― Chuck Palahniuk, Survivor. 

This quote speaks volumes in term of news revolving suicide. It’s a controversial topic to be put out. Is it really though?  Tempering with the accuracy of the situation, not only disregard the severity of the issue faced, but also those effected.  We hear so many stories, see so many posts, read so many forwarded messages of children to old people committing  suicide, attempting suicide, etc. Most of us even know someone who has attempted suicide or was suicidal at one point of  their lives. Why is it not being highlighted? 

Is our noachian law to be blamed? 

Section 309 of the Penal Code which states that “whoever attempts to commit suicide, and does any act towards the  commission of such offence, shall be punished with imprisonment for a term which may extend to one year or with fine  or with both”. 

If so, why isn’t it being revised, redrafted, rewritten? 

Our current law adds distress to those already in an anguish. It reinforces feeling suicidal is something bad. You are at a  wrong if you are having suicidal tendencies. This strengthens the stigma surrounding suicide. Shame and frustration that  stigma and ignorance bring discourages at-risk individuals from seeking help. 

Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Datuk Liew Vui Keong stated, “These individuals must be provided  necessary access to mental healthcare and be cared for as patients, not prisoners, however, before the law can be amended  to decriminalize suicide, there must first be sustainable and viable mechanisms in place for these individuals to access  mental healthcare”. 

I wholeheartedly concur to this, At the same time, I do believe that our government has what it takes to make it happen  sooner. In light of the recent COVID-19 Pandemic that is shaking global power houses, Malaysian government has proved  it’s might and is doing a great job! If we can come together and face this unexpected curveball with such grace, I am  confident we can join hands to face this invisible enemy that has been taunting our society all this while.  

The only advantage mental illness has, is a mask. To unmask it, we have to highlight. We have to stop seeing the situation  through a rose-tinted glass. Sweeping it under the rug in pretense of protecting those easily influenced is like caging an  eagle because there is thunder outside. They are still going to hear about it, read about it, but from all the wrong sources. 

Journalists should highlight and report incidents and event in a manner that is professional and ethical so that media and  social platforms can be used as a powerful and effective medium for prevention. Knowledge is power. Sharing is also  power. Creating awareness through real life incidents and people coming forth to share the battles they have conquered  can be a relatable yet empowering method of getting those in need to the assistance they so rightfully deserve. The act of  suicide is ugly, but the person committing it is not.  

Rewriting the law, sends a powerful statement.  

It is the first step in breaking the stigma surrounding mental health.  

It is the first candle we light in honoring all those we have lost in this war.  

The light of which, will guide many other in battle. 

Let us come forth in confidence; not to be judged but to be embraced.  

“...and then, I have nature and art and poetry, and if that is not enough, what is enough?”  ― Vincent Willem van Gogh