A movement by Singaporeans mothers asking suicidal teens to “please stay” has made an impact not just in Singapore, but also abroad. The BBC has highlighted the advocacy group, which is called ‘PleaseStay.Movement’, on its news platform.
Suicide remains the leading cause of death for youth aged 10 to 29. Notably, the number of suicide deaths amongst those aged 20 to 29 years remains highest compared to all other age groups. In 2019, 71 individuals aged between 20 and 29 years took their own lives. Suicide accounts for about one-third of all reported deaths in this age group.
Calling the high number of suicide deaths in this age group concerning, Samaritans of Singapore (SOS) CEO Gasper Tan said last month, “Much more remains to be done as a community to further understand and address the issues that may prevent our youths from seeking help.”
A group of mothers who lost their children to suicide have also come forward to use their experiences to call for a national strategy on suicide prevention and mental well-being. Formed under the umbrella of the Child Bereavement Support Singapore, PleaseStay.Movement advocates for more support for children at risk of self-harm.
The BBC published a video this week highlighting the efforts of the advocacy group. The video featured Doreen Kho, who lost her 11-year-old son Evan to suicide, and Elaine Lek, whose son Zen took his own life about a month before he turned 18.
Ms Kho shared that a combination of factors led to her young son’s untimely death. Aside from his autism, which made it difficult for him to socialise, Evan underwent a great deal of stress in school. Ms Kho said, “As a society, Singapore is very competitive. And especially for boys, they feel that coming out to say ‘I’m depressed, I’m feeling sad’ is exposing their vulnerability’.
“It is just, in an Asian culture, it just doesn’t seem right for a boy to be weak. They’re expected to be strong, they’re expected to uphold the family. So that’s a lot of stress for a boy to take.”
Ms Lek realised that there could be a genetic predisposition to suicidal thoughts when her cousins came forward to share their struggles after Zen passed away. She said, “Many families are in denial because of the shame. It’s embarrassing for them to admit that ‘My child has a mental illness.'”
Revealing that she knows of a few suicide bereaved mothers who hide their child’s death from those around them for the fear of being ostracised or causing shame, Ms Lek said: “Families think that if we acknowledge it, it becomes contagious. It’s a taboo, it is a stigma, so they don’t recognise it and they don’t offer the right help for their children who are struggling.”
On why they started PleaseStay.Movement and why they are , Ms Kho said: “We don’t want youths to think that telling people they are depressed makes them weak. We want them to know it’s OK not to be OK.”
Acknowledging the challenges the young go through, Ms Kho advised children to take their time to grow up and not worry about meeting the expectations of anyone. On the verge of tears, she added:
“Your life is very, very precious to a lot of people who love you. I hope that many years from now, you will look back and you will tell yourself that I’m glad I stayed for the people I love, and for myself.”
"Your life is very, very precious."These mothers lost children to suicide. They set up the PleaseStay movement in Singapore to help other at-risk young people. bbc.in/33bMqjRIf you, or someone you know, needs support you can visit the BBC Action Line for advice: https://bbc.in/33a6Qty
Posted by BBC News on Wednesday, 9 September 2020
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