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Legal reforms will help end mental health stigma: Psychologists

Ismail Sebugwaawo /Abu Dhabi
ismail@khaleejtimes.com Filed on November 14, 2020
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People who have harmed themselves will be referred for mental health treatment.

Recent legal reforms to decriminalise self-harm acts will make vulnerable individuals more open to seeking help for mental health issues, say psychologists in the UAE.

Decriminalising suicide and attempted suicide is a move in the right direction, said Aakanksha Tangri, founder of Re:Set. “It allows people to get the necessary help and support they need without the stigma and shame that often surround mental health conditions,” she said.

Suicide attempts and self-harm have been punishable by law, but now, under the amendments to the UAE Penal Code and the Criminal Procedures Law, acts that do not harm others and only cause self-harm will not be considered criminal. People who have harmed themselves will be referred for mental health treatment.

“We’ve seen a rise in mental health challenges due to Covid-19 and removing the barriers to access support will ensure we can tackle them. Contrary to myths, speaking about suicide does not encourage or lead to suicide. It raises more awareness and does away with the taboos. We can only dispel the stigma when we have open and honest conversations around it,” added Tangri.

Dr Saliha Afridi, clinical psychologist and director of The LightHouse Arabia, said that decriminalising suicide will prompt at-risk individuals to seek help and have conversations around the subject. “There is already a lot of stigma around mental health and related discourse; add in the fear of litigation and punishment, they are less likely to disclose that they need professional support.

“Now we can spend time and energy on education and prevention of suicide along with training first responders to deal with vulnerable individuals with the much-deserved care, compassion, sensitivity, and professionalism they need,” added Afridi.

The President, His Highness Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan, last week issued a number of decrees to amend some provisions of the Federal Personal Status Law, the Federal Civil Transactions Law, the Federal Penal Code, and the Federal Criminal Procedure Law.

ismail@khaleejtimes.com

author

Ismail Sebugwaawo

A professional journalist originating from Kampala, Uganda, Ismail is a happy father with strong attachment to family and great values for humanity. He has practiced journalism in UAE for the past 13 years, covering the country's parliament (FNC) and crimes, including Abu Dhabi Police, public prosecution and courts. He also reports about important issues in education, public health and the environment, with a keen interest in human interest stories. When out of reporting duties, he serves the Ugandan community in Abu Dhabi as he wants to see his countrymen happy. Exercising and reading are part of his free time.





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