The Kenya Psychiatrics Association [KPA] is calling on Parliament to repeal section 226 of the Penal Code of Kenya that criminalizes suicide attempts and allow mental professionals provide due care.
According to the Penal Code, any person who attempts to kill himself is guilty of misdemeanor and may face a penalty of up to two years in prison, a fine or both.
Dr. Chitayi Murabula, the president of the Kenya Psychiatric Association said persons contemplating suicide have underlying medical conditions which should be handled by a mental health professional but not the police or the justice system.
Dr. Murabula said the repeal of the section would allow Parliament to enact legislation affecting suicide attempts in view of advancing knowledge in health science.
Speaking during the 13th Annual Scientific Conference held in Naivasha, the medic said persons with suicidal thoughts should be shown compassion and not to be subjected to stigma or punishment.
“Kenya should join progressive countries that have repealed their laws to allow suicide be under health professionals,” said Dr. Murabula
The calls come as the World Suicide Prevention Day is set to be marked today, September 10 with the aim of creating awareness about ways in which suicide could be prevented.
According to Prof. Lukoye Atwoli, the chair of board of Mathari Hospital, Parliament should hasten the repeal of the section to remove suicide from the purview of the legal justice system and have it addressed by mental health professionals.
Prof. Atwoli said suicide is a health issue and not a criminal offence and therefore people with mental illness or those facing serious social and psychological distress should be handled by psychiatrics.
Consequently, Prof. Atwoli said that the association is closely working with Media Council of Kenya to create appropriate guidelines on how journalists should report on suicide incidences in the society.
He added that the guidelines once finalized would allow media professionals to report responsibly on the issue.
Dr. Frank Njenga, a psychiatrist at Chiromo hospital said patients with suicidal thoughts should be handled with care as most of them were at the tipping point in their life experiences.
Dr. Njenga said the media should therefore lead in educating and sensitizing Kenyans on the need to seek medical attention in times of mental distress.