Recently, social media has been alight with news of local influencer Yang Bao Bei’s (better known as YBB) dramatic suicide attempt last week and a man who fell to his death at KLCC yesterday in an apparent suicide.
While these two tragedies may look similar to most people, there’s a stark difference between the two – one escaped police arrest while the other didn‘t.
Wait, what? Why would someone who has reached the end of the rope be comforted with handcuffs? Shouldn’t psychological help be given to those suffering from depression? Sadly, suicide is on an equal footing with theft in Malaysia.
Under Malaysia’s criminal laws, suicide attempts are punishable under Section 309 of the Penal Code, where it carries a fine and jail sentence. Malaysia is also one of the few countries that still criminalize suicide attempts, resulting in court decisions that triggered a public outcry. One notable example occurred last June, where an unemployed man was fined RM3,000 in default of a three-month jail sentence for attempting to kill himself.
This archaic law, regardless of the intentions behind its enactment, is a slap in the face of those who are crying out for professional help in battling with their personal demons. Who could ever justify or support laws that only destroy one’s mental wellbeing instead of rebuilding it? And how is it that the government is unwilling to introduce laws that will be more compassionate towards those who are suffering from mental illness?
Some would argue that decriminalizing suicide would result in more taking their own lives, but there has been no concrete data to support this statement. According to the Mental Health Advisory Council Member Tan Sri Lee Lam Thye, outlawing suicide as a crime tends to lead to lower suicide cases.
“When suicide is considered a criminal act, suicide attempts are often hidden and suicide deaths are unreported, thus giving the false impression that suicidal behaviours are less prevalent.” 
I, for one, am not a proponent of ending one’s life prematurely. But I also do not wish to see someone who is mentally tormented or ill to be hauled off to jail and treated like a criminal. With COVID-19 still posing a threat, more people’s mental health will be pushed beyond the breaking point. What society needs to show such individuals is compassion, not a twisted form of “justice”.
 Source: “Time to decriminalize attempted suicide”. New Straits Times. July 26, 2020.
Disclaimer: The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and does not purport to reflect the opinions or views of WeirdKaya.
Editor: Sarah Yeoh