Agong's Daughter Calls For Decriminalisation Of Suicide

Suicide must be decriminalised in order to end the stigmatisation of mental health, according to Tengku Puteri Raja Tengku Puteri Iman Afzan Al Sultan Abdullah.

Cover image via Mohd Yusni Ariffin/New Straits Times

Yang di-Pertuan Agong's eldest daughter, Tengku Puteri Raja Tengku Puteri Iman Afzan Al Sultan Abdullah, has urged the government to decriminalise suicide

According to Tengku Iman, suicide must be decriminalised in order to end the stigmatisation of mental health.

"Throughout my mental health journey, I have always felt that stigma is the biggest hurdle that we face and that more must be done. If we continue to penalise those who attempt suicide, it will only continue to perpetuate the stigmatisation of mental health," New Straits Times quoted her as saying.

"Criminalising suicide does not address the underlying factors that cause such attempts in the first place, rather, it has the opposite effect as the criminal element discourages those suffering from seeking help and treatment," said the 27-year-old princess.

"We must start somewhere and win battles first to win the war against stigmatisation. Decriminalising suicide is one of these battles."

Tengku Puteri Raja Tengku Iman Afzan Al-Sultan Abdullah (centre).

Image via Mohd Yusni Ariffin/New Straits Times

Tengku Iman, who is a staunch mental health advocate as well as the royal patron of the Mental Illness Awareness and Support Association (MIASA), was speaking at the launch of MIASA's new crisis management centre at the Orchid Clubhouse, Petaling Jaya on Thursday, 10 September.

She was also named the international patron of World Mental Health Day 2020.

According to The Star, her new appointment is recognised by the World Health Organization (WHO) following the recommendation made by the World Federation For Mental Health (WFMH).

She said Malaysia should step up in amending the law, especially when most countries no longer classify attempted suicide as a crime

Tengku Iman said Malaysia has already made a name for itself to the world when it managed to contain the COVID-19 pandemic, hence decriminalising suicide can help keep the ball rolling on the positive global outlook.

"Malaysia has gone through great lengths to manage the COVID-19 pandemic and our efforts have received praise. I am certain that we have set standards on what good public health management should be," she said in conjunction with World Suicide Prevention Day yesterday.

"We should keep the momentum going by also setting standards on what good mental healthcare should be, and it must be part of our recovery in the 'new normal' phase."

She also stressed that there must be sustainable and viable mechanisms for people to access mental healthcare before the law is amended to decriminalise suicide.

The Pahang royalty said such arrangements must precede decriminalisation of suicide so that individuals facing mental health challenges can come forward without fear or hesitation.

Earlier in the same event, Health Minister Datuk Seri Dr Adham Baba the number of attempted suicide cases this year is lower than in 2019

"A total of 465 attempted suicide cases were recorded between January and June this year, compared to the same period in 2019, where there were 675 cases," said Dr Adham.

Meanwhile, up to 11,791 calls were made to the Ministry of Health's (MOH) psychosocial support hotline between 25 March and 31 August this year.

Among the calls, half of the calls were related to stress, anxiety, and despair.

"Calls were also made on information related to COVID-19 (17%), marital issues including domestic violence (8%), followed by financial issues (7.4%), and psychiatric problems (3.4%)," said the minister.

Asking for help is not a sign of weakness.

If you or anyone you know may be at risk of suicide, please call these Malaysian hotlines:

Contact: +603-76272929
Skype: BefKL Skype 1
Email: [email protected]
Website | Facebook | Twitter

Contact: 15999
WhatsApp: +6019-2615999
Email: [email protected]
Website | Facebook

For a more thorough directory of resources, head over to the Malaysian Mental Health Association's website.

If you wish to talk to professionals in person or online, check out this list:

Learn more about how to deal with mental health issues here:

You may be interested in: