We should focus on trying to assist those who need support the most, and not criminalise them.

AS I was refreshing my newsfeed on Facebook a few days ago, I came across a news article that caught my attention.

It was regarding an unemployed woman in her mid-20s who was slapped with a RM2,000 fine in default three months’ jail for attempting suicide.

She had apparently slashed her wrists several times with a knife at a beauty salon some weeks back.

At first, I admit I felt that having her pay such a hefty fine for a psychological problem was a tad unfair.

However, the law is the law; Section 309 of the Penal Code states that any individual who “attempts to commit suicide, and does any act towards the commission of such offence, shall be punished with imprisonment for a term which may extend to one year or with fine or with both”.

Legal experts have suggested that it’s time the law be amended to help victims, as suicide attempts are nothing but cries for help. I definitely feel the same, because we should focus on trying to assist those who need support the most, and not criminalise them.

This isn’t the first time that we have heard of suicide attempts.

Many times in recent years we have either read about them in the news or know someone who has tried to take his/her own life.

It’s becoming so common these days that people generally do not seem to be surprised anymore.

I blame it on one thing in particular: modus vivendi. Literally translated from Latin, it means “way of living”. Why, you ask?

I can provide you with reasons and examples, but I’ll discuss one issue for now. Modern technology has brought about significant changes and improvements in our daily lives.

It has provided us with computers and the Internet, to boost our knowledge and capabilities and learn various things, including languages and musical instruments. It has also provided us with tools to bully others who don’t have what we possess, and it has given us opportunities to take part in unhealthy competitions, and trigger unwelcome stress and pressure.

The 21st century has birthed a new generation of people who have unrealistic expectations and when these expectations are not met, the disappointment that kicks in is nothing less than damaging, if not life threatening.

Just recently, a 15-year-old girl had allegedly committed suicide for placing second in class, despite scoring straight As in her examinations.

Prior to that, a 17- year-old student took his own life after failing to answer a question in his Additional Mathematics paper during the Sijil Pelajaran Malaysia examination.

In addition to that, there have been countless cases of college and university students who have committed suicide or attempted to commit suicide over the past decade. The numbers have been increasing at an alarming rate and the situation doesn’t look like it’s going to get better.

My question is, who is to be blamed for this? As much as you might not want to admit it, the answer is as clear as day: society.

Regrettably, we are all guilty of playing a part in the rise of suicides and suicide attempts among the younger generation today.

Let us reflect, shall we?

We tell our children that they simply must achieve good grades in school, lest they risk being a garbage collector when they grow up.

We tell our children that they must simply be able to be in possession of 20 different skills, lest they risk being passed on as an employee of many companies.

We tell our friends that they simply must lose weight or lighten their skin colour, lest they risk facing a future without a life partner.

We tell our friends that they simply must be in possession of a fat bank balance, properties and vehicles, lest they risk ending up as nothing but failures in life.

With all these and more, how can one not have a mental breakdown and succumb to intense societal pressure?

Having high expectations as motivation to become successful is good; it’s a different story altogether when the expectations turn into a reason why one doesn’t deserve to live.

Ashley Greig, a lecturer at Sunway College, is a Malaysian-born Eurasian with Scottish/Japanese/Indian lineage. She believes in a tomorrow where there is no racism and hatred.

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