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Lifeline International: Towards Decriminalising Suicide Worldwide
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Lifeline International: Towards Decriminalising Suicide Worldwide


Lifeline International: Towards Decriminalising Suicide Worldwide

Suicide is a priority public health concern for all countries. Suicide is a global leading cause of death. No one wants lives lost to suicide nor the tragic impact of a suicide on those who are left behind.

We believe in the fundamental tenet that Suicide can be prevented.

In 2023, Lifeline International has begun a global campaign to decriminalise suicide worldwide, working with international suicide prevention and mental health associations. The movement aims to bring together a network of champions to destigmatise suicide, enact legislative change, and assist in implementing crisis lines where needed.

By decriminalising suicide worldwide, we can address this preventable form of death and ensure individuals receive the care they need.

By changing laws and then offering crisis support, together, can prevent suicide and offer hope.

The Global Issue

Approximately 700,000 people die by suicide worldwide every year. Conservatively, for every completed suicide, it’s estimated an additional 20 people attempt.

Shockingly, suicide is still considered a crime in around 40 countries, hindering people from seeking help when in a crisis, and exacerbating the problem globally. Criminalising suicide leads to stigma, isolates individuals in distress and crisis, and prevents them from reaching out for the support they need, at the time they need it most.

We believe, fundamentally, that suicide should not be a crime. Suicidal behaviour is an expression of pain and suffering. Laws should not punish those who experience despair.

Negative Impacts for Survivors

In countries where suicide is a crime, individuals who survive suicide attempts can face arrest, prosecution, fines, or even imprisonment. Sending survivors to jail does not provide the care and attention they need to recover from crisis and move forward with their lives.

People who express thoughts about or attempt suicide require compassion, support, and mental health care, not shame and punishment.

The Criminalisation Barrier

Suicide being labelled a crime is often a result of historical or cultural factors. These views have existed, in some cases, for over a century. A contemporary view is that suicide is related to a person’s inability to cope with life’s experiences, a sense of being trapped so ending one’s life becomes seen as the way out of problems and pain. Suicide prevention is effective as it shows people in crisis that there are options and that others are around offering help and assistance to cope and find a way through the struggle.

International research studies have shown that making suicide a crime does not reduce the number of suicide deaths; it simply deters people from seeking help when they are in a crisis.

We must change this, together. We must globally decriminalise suicide.

Scale of the Issue

Suicide remains a crime in around 40 countries globally, impeding individual and community access to essential crisis support services.

We believe half a billion people worldwide lack access to quality, caring 24/7 crisis lines, which are crucial in moments of deep distress and suicidal ideation. Changing laws that criminalise suicide and then establishing supported crisis lines will save lives and provide the care individuals and communities need.

Care and Crisis Lines

Lifeline International, and our members, believe suicide prevention support should be available in more places and at all times. When a person is in crisis, they deserve access to help, where and when they need it.

Criminalising suicide makes it harder to provide care and support to people in crisis, by hindering their access to help and discouraging the act of reaching out.

Decriminalising suicide globally will facilitate conversations that acknowledge suicide as a tragedy, not a crime. Then, together, we can establish crisis lines and suicide prevention services in areas of need, helping to save lives.

About Lifeline International

Lifeline International is a global organisation with 30 members in 23 countries, providing crisis lines and suicide prevention services. Our objective is to ensure that more people in more places can access the support they need in times of crisis. We create a community of crisis lines and suicide prevention services that learn and grow together, sharing information and best practice. When people are in crisis, we want to be there to help.