Asia Malaysia After teen commits suicide in heeding Instagram poll results, Malaysian youth minister...

After teen commits suicide in heeding Instagram poll results, Malaysian youth minister is jump-starting a national discussion about mental health

With youths making up over 45 percent of its population and the majority of Malaysians committing suicides, authorities are pushing for better mental health, and suicide prevention alerts in social media.

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Bangi—When a teenager leapt to her death on Monday (May 13) after having likely heeded a majority “Die” vote in her social media poll asking netizens to help her decide on suicide, Malaysian Youth and Sports Minister Syed Saddiq Syed Abdul Rahman expressed concern about the state of mental health of Malaysia’s youth, and is launching a plan of action to address it.

At a National Youth Day celebration on Wednesday (May 15), Syed Saddiq told the media,

“I am genuinely worried about the state of our youth’s mental health. It’s a national issue which must be taken seriously.

More important is to jump-start a national discussion so that we can collectively resolve the issue.”

He has announced that he will hold an informal open discussion on at 5:30 pm today (May 17) on his visit to the International Islamic University Malaysia.

The Star Online reports him saying to the press, “I will be hosting a dialogue and have invited several experts to sit on the panel.”

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Syed Saddiq expressed concerns that many Malaysians downplay and disregard mental issues, considering them to be “fake.” On the contrary, he told reporters that the majority of Malaysians who commit suicide are youths and that 6 out of every 10 young persons in the country have mental health issues.

He added that the issue is not only about the taking of one’s own life: “It is not just about suicide – mental health affects the quality of life and health of our youth.”

Clamour has arisen for investigations into this week’s suicide of the mentally- and emotionally-affected teenager, who lived in Kuching, Sarawak. She had written on her Instagram account, “Really Important, Help Me Choose D/L,” with “D” standing for “die” and “L” for “live”.

Sixty-nine percent of respondents had voted for “D” while 31 percent had voted for “L.”

Police in Malaysia have classified the teen’s suicide as sudden death, as she reportedly fell from the third floor of a shopping centre.

Others are also calling for stricter measures to prevent suicides. Respected Malaysian Psychiatric Association patron Lee Lam Thye has suggested that an alert system be established to notify relevant parties when someone posts on social media with the wish or intent to commit suicide.

The South China Morning Posts (SCMP) reports Malaysian MP and lawyer Ramkarpal Singh as suggesting that those who had voted for the teen to die may be guilty of abetting suicide. Individuals convicted of abetting in a minor’s suicide may face a 20-year jail term or the death penalty.

Ramkarpal is also among those who have asked for an investigation into her demise: “I urge the authorities … to investigate the social media accounts of the victim and the circumstances that led to her death to prevent further abuse of social media in similar circumstances in the future. It is important that incidents such as this do not repeat themselves.

“Would the girl still be alive today if the majority of netizens on her Instagram account discouraged her from taking her own life? Would she have heeded the advice of netizens to seek professional help had they done so?

“Did the encouragement of those netizens actually influence her decision to take her own life? Since attempted suicide is an offence in this country, it follows that abetting one to attempt suicide may be, too.”

When a British teen committed suicide in 2017 after reading about suicide online, Instagram said it would prohibit images of self-harm.

In a statement, the social media platform extended condolences to the girl’s family.

“Our thoughts and prayers are with this young woman’s family. We have a deep responsibility to make sure people using Instagram feel safe and supported. As part of our own efforts, we urge everyone to use our reporting tools and to contact emergency services if they see any behaviour that puts people’s safety at risk,” said Ching Yee Wong, head of communications for Instagram APAC, the SCMP reports. /TISG

Read related: Malaysian teen took own life after Instagram poll

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