Ghana says the move opens up better mental health care for people with suicidal tendencies. Photo/ others 

By Charles Mgbolu

Ghanaian mental health advocates have called the decision by the Ghanaian authorities to decriminalise suicide a fierce battle finally won.

Ghana recently amended the Criminal Offenses Act of 1960, which previously made attempted suicide a criminal offence in the country.

The new amendment now states that attempted suicide will be considered a mental health issue requiring assistance by law instead of a crime.

Before the amendment, anyone found guilty of attempted suicide could be sentenced to between three months and two years.

Professor Akwasi Osei, who was the former head of the Mental Health Authority of Ghana, called it a huge relief.

''We are happy about this amended law which had simply been jailing people for having a mental health condition. Suicidal tendencies is simply a mental health condition.'' Osei tells TRT Afrika.

According to the World Health Organization, about 700,000 suicides occur across the globe every year. For every completed suicide, there are at least 20 unsuccessful attempts.

President Nana Akufo-Addo noted at the inauguration of the psychiatry building of the Korle-Bu Teaching Hospital in Accra that the amendment is an effort to improve mental health delivery in the country.

Professor Osei said countries still criminalising suicide must have a rethink.

''It is so unfair. It's as if they are being punished for not completing the suicide attempt because that is what this law targets. It targets attempted suicide. Victims of this condition are simply calling for help. They should not be punished for it.''

Ghana, India, Kuwait, Nigeria, Pakistan, Rwanda, and Singapore are notable countries operating this penal code.

According to Ghana’s National Institute of Health, about 1,500 suicide cases are reported annually in the country.

TRT Afrika