People Who Attempt Suicide Need Compassion, Not Criminal Prosecution
Where I’m living right now, taking your own life or attempting to do so is considered a grave sin and must be punished accordingly. I am currently facing a hefty fine or imprisonment of up to six months for attempting suicide and also for having medication in my possession that is illegal in their country — even though I have a certified prescription from my home country for it. Although I am an expat and not Muslim, I live in their country and must abide by their rules and law.
I had the opportunity to retract my initial statement and “phrase” it differently in order for me to walk free. However, I felt this would deny everything I believed in. I not only wanted to stand firm by speaking the truth even when it was the hardest thing to do, but also not to minimize the toll depression can take on those who live with it. Telling them what “they wanted to hear” would simply sweep this immense problem under the rug and the desperate focus mental health needs will get lost.
Some countries are more focussed on hiding negative statistics, the economic stability a healthy flow of tourists will bring and their image, that they are ignorant as to what is truly going on with the working class and the toll mental health issues have on the emotional well being of its citizens. According to an article published on The National, “Doctors believe that although many know more about mental health issues now, the stigma associated with these still poses a global challenge.” Also, many health insurance companies do not cover psychiatric problems, which adds to the stress and concern of people who cannot afford treatment and then prevents them from seeking further help. Although a lot of effort has been made to bring awareness to mental health issues and thus encouraged people to seek treatment, there is no follow through. So, not only do many expats find themselves alone, without family or friends for support, in a foreign country where they cannot afford the help they so desperately need, but they also face criminal prosecution when they end up hitting rockbottom and attempting suicide.
After leaving the public prosecutor’s office earlier this week after being questioned, alone, for almost an hour, I realized something. I realized why being treated and tried as a criminal for an illness is not going to resolve anything. One of the biggest triggers for my mental health issues is stress, anxiety and lack of sleep. I attempted to take my life early September 2016 and shortly after I was discharged from the hospital, I had to give my statement to the police. They confiscated my passport and the investigation has now been going on for almost six months. Therefore, for six months I have been dealing with feelings of guilt, shame, fear, disappointment, loneliness, despair and agonizing over what will happen with my future — all adding to my worst triggers of being stressed and having anxiety, which leads to little or no sleep.
I understand that I am not exempt from any country’s law, but criminal punishment is not the solution. With depression you already feel like a worthless human being that will not amount to anything and feel like you have failed yourself and everyone around you. To then be ostracized and prosecuted on top of that only adds to the critic inside of you. Instead of sentencing you to prison or inflict a fine that you cannot afford (after all, you did struggle to afford the treatment in the first place) we should be finding ways to help people who struggle with mental health issues. Being new to a foreign country, not knowing many people and only having my husband as a support system, I didn’t know how or where to find help and I didn’t want to be a financial burden. I had to deal with the emotional roller coaster of being a newly wed, quitting my job (therefore being completely financially dependent on my husband) and moving to a Middle-Eastern country, leaving my trusted psychologist of 15 years as well as family and friends behind, and my dog which has been a form of therapy in so many ways. My entire world fell apart and I fell into one of the worst depressions I have ever experienced. Not only is awareness crucial for mental health issues, but creating the means to obtain help is vital. Without help and the proper support system awareness means nothing. Going through this experience has truly humbled me, but also it has been difficult to remember who I am. It is heartbreaking to be treated like a criminal when I am not; I am a good and honest person. People who live with mental illnesses are not “less than” — we are still us. We can still laugh, love, care, dream and hope. We also seek connection and companionship. Mental illness is not reserved for any race, religion, social class or sex. Anyone can fall victim to its cold grip and we must all work together to lift the stigma surrounding it.
Never, in my wildest dreams, would I have known that when I woke up in the hospital, I would face another form of prison. When you find yourself in such a deep, desperate and dark place that you feel like you have to die by suicide just to find peace from the monsters plaguing your mind, I would l say that you have been punished enough and don’t need another prison to do so.
If you or someone you know needs help, visit our suicide prevention resources page.
If you need support right now, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255, the Trevor Project at 1-866-488-7386 or text “START” to 741-741
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Thinkstock photo via IgorKozeev