Singapore’s troubling suicide problem – early detection of signs and professional help is best prevention

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Singapore’s suicide rates have gone down in the recent years. Samaritans of Singapore (SOS), an organization dedicated to the prevention of suicide, reported 361 suicides in Singapore in 2017, the lowest since 2012. Despite hitting a record low, the statistics reveal even more disturbing news than before, making detection of early warning signs and getting professional help immediately the best and only way to prevent suicide.

According to SOS, the average suicide rate from 2012 to 2016 was 9.14 suicides per 100,000 residents. That went down to a record low of 7.74 suicides per 100,000 residents. While the numbers for all of Singapore are encouraging, the details expose new heart-breaking numbers.

“Suicide is the leading cause of death for those aged 10-29.

There are 2.4 times more deaths from suicide than transport accidents.

Males account for more than 66.6 % of all suicides.

For every suicide, at least 6 suicide survivors are left behind.”

 

It is tragic that Singapore’s youth aged 10-29 are turning to suicide. Besides going through a dizzying coming-of-age and a realization of self, they are forced to face multiple pressures in this intensely competitive and disruptive technological age. Pressure is coming from all sides: from their parents, their peers, their schools, their workplaces, their bosses, their bank accounts, and the big one – their futures. Many Singaporean millennials have expressed deep anxiety over having FOMO (the fear of missing out) on opportunities and advancements that will make them relevant in the future.

Young people are not the only ones choosing to end their own lives. The pervasiveness of the elderly committing suicide is a troubling trend in Singapore. The number of suicides by older citizens aged 60 and above in 2017 has gone up to 129, the highest number ever recorded. Samaritans of Singapore listed elderly suicides in 2017 at an alarming 123 percent of that in 2011.

Losing their life partners at an advanced age, living in isolation, battling chronic illnesses that affect their mental faculties (such as dementia), facing extreme loneliness and feeling disconnected from the world, which is moving at a pace too fast for them, are the most common causes that lead to the disquieting reality of elderly suicides in Singapore.

Singapore has dealt with suicides by criminalizing them – imposing fines and an up to one-year prison sentence on suicide attempts, as stated in Section 309 of Singapore’s Penal Code, which also notes that it is a crime to aid and abet the suicide of another person.

Just last month, an official review of the Penal Code by a special committee called for attempted suicide to be decriminalized, saying that the way to help suicidal people is not through the criminal justice system, but through professional treatment.

Treatment, rather than prosecution, is the effective and appropriate response to people fighting such extreme depression that they actually want to take their own lives, the committee noted in its report.

 

Given the state of mind of a person attempting suicide, the focus should be on addressing the precipitating causes, since there may be limited contemplation of deterrence or consequence in those circumstances,” said Anand Nalachandran of TSMP Law Corporation, who has acted for someone who had attempted suicide.

SOS lists the risk factors that can contribute to a higher propensity of suicidal thoughts:

1) a previous attempt or family history of suicide

2) mental illness

3) serious chronic health conditions

4) traumatic life events (divorce, job loss, death of close ones, etc.)

5) prolonged stress situations (bullying, abuse, unemployment, etc.)

Early detection is important to the prevention of suicide.

The only way that suicide can be prevented is through early detection and help. Singapore needs to change its ways – decriminalizing attempts at suicide and offering treatment and care instead.

Samaritans of Singapore says that there is hope, as long as we help each other.

“Suicide is preventable. More often than not, individuals don’t want to end their lives – they just want to get out of the overwhelming or painful situation they are in. But they can’t do it alone.” – Samaritans of Singapore

 

For those who need help or know someone who does, you can contact SOS any time of the day or night at 180-221-4444.