Six Month Milestone reached for Decriminalise Suicide Worldwide

LifeLine International has marked the six months since the launch of Decriminalise Suicide Worldwide

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6 min read

LifeLine International has marked the six months since the launch of Decriminalise Suicide Worldwide by commencing the recruitment drive for its country change platform and sharing campaign progress.  The campaign seeks to change or clarify the law in 52 nations where criminalisation, other legal barriers or the risk of punishment exist that inhibit help-seeking for people in suicidal crisis, which also entrench stigma. The campaign was launched at Australia House in London on October 23rd, 2023, by Australia’s 27th Prime Minister, the Hon. Julia Gillard AC.

LifeLine International President Justin Chase said “We have set ourselves an ambitious, but long-term objective in this campaign, to decriminalise suicide worldwide, and in six months we have established critical foundations to succeed.  I am very proud of the progress in our three focus countries of Malawi, Nigeria and Kenya; our leadership engagement and visibility in the sector; and the two online platforms we have launched to build two distinct campaign communities, the steady growth in our online presence, the creative excellence and the depth of strategy and research.

“Where we campaign to change laws, we will enhance and/or expand suicide prevention services and continue the public discourse the challenges stigma and encourages help seeking – this will save lives,” he said.  “Our progress renews our commitment, that suicide, everywhere, is preventable.”

Mr Chase also repeated his launch remarks – “Decriminalisation Suicide Worldwide. Just three words for the most powerful steps we can take to help save millions of lives and to achieve the globally agreed Sustainable Development Goal to reduce the rate of suicide by 30% by 2030.”  

CEO Thilini Perera said, “We were delighted to welcome the support of the Hon. Julia Gillard AC in launching our campaign with an inspiring keynote address calling on Governments to show political will to change these laws and save lives. We are delighted to share again her inspiring keynote speech to mark our six-month milestone,” Ms Perera added.  The 4-minute speech can be viewed here

Ms Perera added, “Since our launch, we have received very positive feedback and support for the campaign across the sector, including our Campaign Brief document detailing our research that updates the sector’s collective knowledge of the legal landscape of suicide across 52 countries. We have increased our collaboration in decriminalisation with our partners United for Global Mental Health, the Global Mental Health Action Network, IASP (International Association for Suicide Prevention) and Throughline and our peer networks.”

Campaign highlights since the launch include:

  • Campaign engagement in three focus countries with concrete steps toward near-term decimalisation in Malawi, Kenya and Nigeria.
  • Hosting an Official Side Event, LifeLine International had an historic presence at the third Conference for Public Health in Africa, Lusaka, Zambia, December 2023, the agenda setting pan-African public health dialogue where mental health, suicide prevention and decriminalisation were agenda items for the first time. 
  • More than 130 million impressions achieved across all campaign channels from social media and digital content. including more than 56 million impressions across print and online media, with a pan-African focus from op-eds by supporters Lady Dentaa Amoanteng OBE and Prof Femi Oyebode and extensive continental media engagement by LLI African Representative, Professor Taiwo Lateef Sheikh
  • Funding LLI Member GASP in Ghana to conduct media training around suicide safe communications in the post decriminalised environment there and supporting the establishment of community-led crisis support helpline.  
  • Invitations to present the campaign at leading conferences in the sector – IASP Congress (September 2023) and the IFOTES XXII Congress Winds of Hope (October 2023) and a Regional Workshop on Decriminalisation for the Caribbean (May 2024)
  • Jointly with the International Bar Association, commenced outreach to 27 Government to clarify the legal status of suicide in their nations and advocate for crisis support services. 
  • Steady progress in building online communities through organic engagement.
    • – a social change community that cares deeply about suicide prevention but support decriminalisation.
    • – the country change platform to host national change coalitions in 52 campaign target countries.

“We are now excited to launch the recruitment phase for our country change platform, inviting experts, activists, academics, clinicians, civil society organisations, helplines and crisis support services, mental health organisations, legislators – really any stakeholder that wants to see suicide decriminalised in their country, to become actors for change by forming and joining national campaigns through the platform.  I thank our partners at IASP, United for Global Mental Health and ThroughLine for their support in this recruitment.”

In the three campaign focus countries of Malawi, Kenya and Nigeria significant progress has been made with local actors for change. LLI’s Africa Representative, Prof. Taiwo Lateef Sheikh has engaged with Health Ministries, crisis line operators and other civil society organisations to progress decriminalisation activities to develop a framework of common campaign elements potentially including stakeholder engagement, public debate, and expert testimony and international voices.

Nigeria is the most advanced campaign, with more than 70 members joining the newly founded Nigeria Suicide Prevention Advocacy Working Group adopting a road map of engagement and advocacy, with the agreement of the Ministry of Health, to bring forward the most constructive debate to welcome the decriminalisation Bill when it is presented to the National Assembly.

LLI is working in partnership the National Committee for Suicide prevention in Kenya through the Kenya Ministry of Health and CSOs that are involved in advocacy for decriminalization of attempted suicide and hosting of crisis help lines. LLI is also collaborating with CSOs and the Malawi Ministry of Health towards adoption and launching of the Malawi National Suicide Prevention Strategic Plan and amendment of the laws that criminalize of suicide attempts in the country.

“We are working to accelerate change in Malawi, Nigeria and Kenya by bringing together supportive stakeholders to lead community discussion in support of decriminalisation, and to work with these Governments as they bring forward policy change. We make sure to bring suicide prevention organisations into the national conversations – the object of changing these colonial laws is to offer more help to more people in distress, and support crisis support services and suicide prevention helplines to enhance and expand their services,” said Prof Sheikh.

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