The Punjab Police teach us a lesson on how not to discuss suicide prevention

The Punjab Police teach us a lesson on how not to discuss suicide prevention

No one is impressed with their threats to lock up people who survive suicide attempts.
22 May, 2021

The Punjab Police have just run one of the most disconnected and unaware awareness campaigns on suicide prevention we have ever seen and people are disgusted.

The department's official Twitter account shared a poster with the caption "times and situations change but you can’t get your life back" and the hashtags 'building for better', 'awareness' and 'Punjab police'.

So far, so good.

The problem was the poster itself, which starts with an ombre notice on top that states "attempting suicide is a crime".

It also mentions Section 325 of the PPC, 1860, which penalises attempted suicides. At the bottom was a note that said "if you survive you can be imprisoned for up to one year".

The post was laughable in its absurdity because, as people on Twitter were quick to point out, the police weren't actually telling people not to commit suicide. They're saying if you attempt it, you better not fail.

While the initial reaction to the post may have been baffled speechlessness people had lots to say after they got over their initial shock.

Many people reacted, rather predictably and aptly, with expletives because honestly, what in the world is this?

Yes, we have a law that is archaic and downright criminal that penalises attempted suicide. The Penal Code was passed in 1860, back when the British ruled us, and though it has seen some reforms, much of it is mired in a colonial mindset. The law itself needs to change.

If someone attempts suicide, the response should not be to lock them up and thereby strengthen their resolve to get it right next time. We need to help them and counsel them. But for the police to threaten — and it was very much a threat — people with jail time if they fail to successfully kill themselves is bizarre.

If you want to help people and prevent suicide, this is not the way to do it. Let's talk suicide prevention helplines or counselling for people who have suicidal thoughts. Let's talk about empathy and understanding that people make the decision to end their lives when they're at the end of their rope, it isn't a joke. They're already in a bad mental state and threatening them with jail time, something possibly even more scary than the thought of ending their lives for some people, isn't helping.

Instead of an exercise in insensitivity, perhaps the police would be better off understanding what drives people to suicide and working to help the community they serve.