IASP Special Working Group (SWG) on the Decriminalisation of Suicide

Suicide remains illegal in at least 25 countries worldwide and attempted suicide is punishable under Sharia law in a further 10 countries1. The World Health Organization (WHO) Global Report (WHO, 2014) found no empirical evidence that decriminalising suicidal behaviours leads to an increase in suicide rates, and urges countries to "review their legal provisions in relation to suicide to ensure they do not deter people from seeking help" (p. 51). Decriminalisation is a stepping stone in the prevention of suicide and requires the accompaniment of multilevel prevention efforts.

IASP supports the decriminalisation of suicide and suicidal behaviour so as not to penalise those who attempt suicide or the families who lose someone through suicide. A fundamental part of IASP's global policy and advocacy work aims to strengthen the forum of expertise who can provide a range of support in the development of global policies and national strategies.

Through the IASP Special Working Group (SWG) on the Decriminalisation of Suicide, IASP aims to identify, and support the implementation of, effective approaches to advocating for the decriminalisation of suicidal behaviour (suicide and attempted suicide) to relevant international and national authorities (e.g., WHO, governments, professional associations, NGOs etc.)

IASP's recent policy position on the decriminalisation of suicide will serve advocates for decriminalisation, policy makers, other international organisations, NGOs and also government. The document outlines the current status of attempted suicide, presents the arguments for and against decriminalisation, discusses the challenges of decriminalisation and outlines the roles of stakeholders in decriminalising suicidal behaviour. Read the full policy position and supporting background document.

1 Mishara, B. L., Weisstub, D.N. (2016). The legal status of suicide: a global review. International Journal of Law and Psychiatry 44: 54-74.

World Health Organization (WHO) (2014) Preventing suicide. A global imperative. World Health Organization: Geneva. Available at: http://www.who.int/mental_health/suicide-prevention/world_report_2014/en/

Brian Mishara (Chair)

Prof. Brian Mishara is Director of the Centre for Research and Intervention on Suicide, Ethical Issues and End-of-Life Practices (CRISE) and Professor of Psychology at the Université du Québec à Montréal, in Montreal, Canada. He is Vice-chairperson of the Trustees of Befrienders Worldwide, an international organization of helplines.

Steve Platt

Prof. Stephen Platt is Emeritus Professor of Health Policy Research at the University of Edinburgh, UK. He has a lifetime research interest in social, epidemiological and cultural aspects of suicide, self-harm and mental health and ill-health. He is an adviser on suicide prevention research and policy to NHS Health Scotland and the Scottish Government, the Irish National Office for Suicide Prevention and Samaritans.

Murad Khan

Prof. Murad Khan is President of IASP, Professor, Dept. of Psychiatry at Aga Khan University Karachi, Pakistan. Murad was the chair of the department of psychiatry at his university from 2003 to 2013. Murad has been researching suicidal behavior in Pakistan over the last couple of decades. Areas of interest include role of socio-cultural and religious factors in suicidal behaviours. He is also the principal investigator of the Karachi Suicide Study (KaSS) and conducted the first psychological autopsy study in Pakistan and one of the few in the Islamic world.

Lakshmi Vijayakumar

Dr. Lakshmi Vijayakumar, consultant psychiatrist based in Chennai, India, is the Founder of SNEHA, a pioneering suicide prevention organisation in India and is the Head, Department of Psychiatry in the Voluntary Health Services, a multi specialty hospital in Chennai. She is an Honorary Associate Professor of the University of Melbourne, Australia. She is also on the World Health Organisation’s International Network for Suicide Research and Prevention.

Joseph Osafo

Dr. Joseph Osafo is Associate Professor of Health Psychology at the Department of Psychology. His research interests are in the areas of suicidality, religion and mental health, maternal and child health, adolescent mental health and sexual behaviours and self-construal within an interdependent cultural setting.

Emilo Ovuga

Dr Emilio Ovuga, PhD dr med, is retired Professor of Psychiatry and Mental Health, and former Dean of the Faculty of Medicine at Gulu University in northern Uganda. Dr Ovuga holds a joint PhD of Karolinska Institute, Sweden and Makerere University, Uganda, in suicidology and psychiatric epidemiology. Dr Ovuga worked at Makerere University, serving that institution in various capacities including being Head of the Department of Psychiatry, and member of several committees of Senate from 1989 to 2006.


Wendy Orchard, IASP Executive Director
Ruth Benson, IASP Research Officer