Number of elderly suicides at an all-time high, despite lowest overall suicide rates

Photo: YouTube screengrab, Mdm Helen

According to a report released by the Samaritans of Singapore (SOS) yesterday, the number of elderly aged 60 and above who took their own lives peaked at 129 last year.

Compared to 123 elderly suicides in 2016, last year saw six more. Elderly suicides also made up 36 per cent of a total of 361 suicides reported in 2017, whereas in 2016, senior suicides only made up 29 per cent of 429 suicides.

Ms Christine Wong, Executive Director of SOS said, “It is very worrying that many elderly are turning to suicide as the only choice to end their pain and struggles, when they should be enjoying their lustre of the golden years”.

These statistics are rather startling despite many measures taken in order to cope with and to assist an aging population.

Ms Wong added, ““These figures are a cause for concern, especially when the number of elderly suicides in this age group is at a record high”.

A senior who is more likely to commit suicide tends to be someone who faces social disconnection, the fear of burdening family and friends, and daily difficulties due to physical challenges and deteriorating mental health, SOS said, based on the profiles of callers to their 24-hour hotline.

However, SOS also added that there are fewer seniors calling in to seek help. In 2017, 5,652 calls were made by the elderly, which comes up to an 18 per cent drop from the 6,904 calls in 2016.

SOS also said that in order for seniors to cope, there is an “imminent need for stronger support networks as the number of elderly Singapore residents living alone continues to increase”.

Some of the red-flags of suicidal tendencies include making preparations for death, like writing a will or giving away cherished belongings, enquiring about a sudden change in environment, and a sudden withdrawal from social interactions.

The peak in the number of elderly suicides come at a time when the overall number of suicides are at their lowest since 2012, at 361 last year.

In 2015, elderly suicides made up 30 per cent of the total number, which has alarmingly risen to 35.7 per cent in 2017.

These numbers have accelerated in the past eight years and urgently need to go down.