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Al Barsha Police Station, Dubai, has launched an initiative whereby individuals who attempt suicide are treated as victims and not as criminals. Image Credit: Ahmed Ramzan/Gulf News

It’s hard to quantify the number of people in the UAE who attempt to ease the pain of their lives by trying to end it all in a suicide attempt.

Certainly, the anecdotal evidence is that there are indeed all too many who are successful in their last act of sadness, depression and desperation, choosing to end their life.

For authorities and police officials, those who fail in their suicide attempts are to be legally considered as criminals. That’s a pre-determination that appears to punish and castigate further individuals who have made the decision to end their lives but have been unsuccessful in doing so.

Yes, attempting suicide is a crime.

But it is much more than that. It is a desperate act of those in mental, physical or financial pain — their failing in being able to deal with the stresses of life, of succumbing to an overwhelming feeling of despair and darkness. But should those who attempt to end their own lives be treated in the same way or with the same hands of authority that pursue others who commit far more serious transgressions against our society?

Attitudes are changing, and a unique programme at Al Barsha Police Station in Dubai is in the vanguard when it comes to dealing with those who try to end their lives.

It’s a caring and compassionate outlook — appropriately called Window of Hope — that reverses conventional thinking, treating those who attempt suicide as victims rather than criminals.

Indeed, as Brigadier Abdul Raheem Bin Shafe’ei, the director of Al Barsha Police Station notes, it’s a unique initiative to support those who attempt to take their lives by extending assistance to tackle deeper issues.

The Window of Hope programme has police officers sitting and talking to those caught in their desperate personal situations while a doctor too works on rehabilitation.

Together, the professionals work on alleviating the psychological problems that have driven the victims to the lowest points of their lives.

As the law stands right now, a person who attempts to end his or her own life is punishable with a prison term of up to six months or a fine of up to Dh5,000 — or both.

While Brigadier Bin Shafe’ei says that attempted suicides were being punished in accordance with the law, the focus is now on treatment, not punishment. And that’s certainly a welcome step.

There is a fine line between the spirit and the letter of the law, and the Window of Hope initiative sits there with compassion.