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Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 22 July 2018

Suicide attempters to be treated not punished, say Dubai Police 

New policy would decriminalise failed suicide bids in the UAE

People who try to commit suicide should be seen as victims and not criminals, according to a new strategy by Dubai Police.

Those who attempt to take their own lives will be given psychological support to help tackle the causes of their issues, while a hotline will be set up dedicated to those suffering with mental health problems.

The policy marks a sweeping change from current UAE law, in which a person who attempts to end his or her life is punished by a prison term of up to six months or a fine of up to Dh5,000 – or both.

The law also states that anyone who encourages or helps someone to commit suicide should be charged with premeditated murder if the person dies.

Attempted suicides were “punished according to the law”, said Brig Ahmed bin Ghalaita, director of Al Refaa Police Station. But treatment rather than punishment would now be the main focus.

“The move is taken to provide support to suicide attempters and deal with them as victims who need moral support and help,” said Brig bin Ghalaita.

“Suicide cases are being examined by a police unit and experts in the psychology field to identify the causes behind their attempts and find solutions for them.”

Twenty-five people took their own lives in Dubai in the first half of this year and 90 killed themselves last year, according to Dubai Police statistics.

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“A hotline will be set up to provide support to those suffering from mental health issues,” Brig bin Ghalaita said.

Most of those who took their own lives were Asians and aged between 27 and 34. Only one teenager has committed suicide this year.

Maj Gen Khalil Al Mansouri, assistant to the Dubai Police chief, said raising awareness was the key to saving lives.

“Police and other authorities can receive their complains to assist them when needed. Most suicide cases occur due to financial and societal problems,” he said.

Maj Gen Al Mansouri said an awareness campaign for pupils will be launched by police about suicide and drug-related issues. He said no suicides had been linked to Blue Whale, a social media game that has encouraged people to kill themselves.

Being humiliated, debt, family and financial problems are among the main causes of suicide among labourers, according to a Dubai Police official.

However, technology-related games are also among the causes today that can lead to an increase in the number of people committing suicide, such as Blue Whale and Mariam, as well as shows depicting suicide on TV and social media networks.

Fifty suicide attempts were made in Dubai in the first half of this year, with 101 failed attempts in 2017, according to Dubai Police.

Dr Tara Wyne, clinical psychologist at LightHouse Arabia mental health clinic in Dubai, said: “Figures about suicide rates are upsetting whether they are lower or higher than previous years. We do not know how many are struggling with mental health issues.

“Those experiencing suicidal thoughts must know that they can get help. It’s a worrying a trend. Untreated mental health problems or feeling isolated are among the causes of suicide,” Dr Wyne said.

She believes mental health issues are highly underestimated in our communities.

“One in every four people will suffer from anxiety,” she said.

Commenting on the effect of suicide being depicted on television and social media, Dr Wyne said: “If suicide is a real issue in our lives, we then create content to reflect that. It is expected. However, adults need to be careful about the age at which young people are allowed to view such content.”

Dr Wyne praised police efforts to address the suicide issue.

“Suicide is not something shameful, it is a response to suffering,” she said.