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Samaritans of Singapore and Temasek Foundation help youths prevent suicide with #chatsafe guidelines

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Temasek Foundation committed S$250,000 to developing #chatsafe training curriculum

Singapore — Suicide prevention agency Samaritans of Singapore (SOS) with support from Temasek Foundation is making #chatsafe guidelines more accessible for young Singaporeans.

Developed in Australia, the #chatsafe guidelines are aimed at helping youths engage in safe and constructive online conversations with their loved ones and friends, who are at risk of suicide.

Since the circuit breaker in April 2020, SOS has attended to 30 per cent more calls for help on its 24-hour hotline and observed that 70 per cent of its younger clientele are first-time users of its text messaging service.

As a result, suicide prevention has become a national priority.

To combat this deterioration in mental health and reinforce #chatsafe guidelines, SOS and Temasek Foundation have launched a campaign called ‘#PauseBeforeYouPost’.

The three-month-long campaign is to teach youths how best to communicate and improve their awareness of the appropriate language to use.

Temasek Foundation has committed S$250,000 to developing a #chatsafe training curriculum. It will be used online and/or in-person training workshops in the last quarter of this year. It seeks to help youths manage their own mental health, while reaching out and supporting those in distress around them.

The #chatsafe programme is expected to train up to 300 people up to the age of 35 and reach approximately 75,000 more youths through the social media campaign.

With suicide in Singapore being the leading cause of death for those aged 10-29, SOS Core Services head Charlene Heng reveals: “Clients reach out to us for emotional support due to the perceived lack of support from family and friends.”

Temasek Foundation deputy chairman Richard Magnus says, “Suicides are preventable. By equipping young people with skills and awareness to conduct safe conversations about suicide and mental health on social media, we hope to create a social resilience net for youths, by youths.”

Developed by Orygen in Australia, #chatsafe guidelines have been adapted with localised content for use in Singapore.

Associate Professor Jo Robinson, head, Suicide Prevention at Orygen, shares, “We are glad to be able to partner with SOS and bring the guidelines to Singapore, helping young people talk safely about their own experiences with suicide and to help them help each other.”

Institute of Mental Health CEO Professor Daniel Fung explains: “Suicidal feelings can be caused by unexpected and uncontrollable stress. It is important for the community in Singapore to create a safe haven for individuals in crisis to get help and support in our busy metropolis.”

As part of the ‘#PauseBeforeYouPost’ campaign, SOS has also created an online video and Instagram stickers packaged with #chatsafe guidelines that encourage people to pause and reflect on their choice of words before posting.

SOS chief executive Gasper Tan says: “Encouraging a ‘pause’ to think before you speak is the first step in learning how to discuss suicide safely and reminds people to reflect on the consequences of their words before acting. It is even more pertinent now especially as we live in a hyper-connected world where speed and efficiency are of the essence, and we often find ourselves rushing to respond or comment to posts.”

He knows it can be difficult to cope with a situation but talking with others can help.

“Do try to reach out to a friend, family or someone that you can trust. It may take more than a few tries to find the right person to talk to, to find a safe outlet to express how you are feeling and coping. If you are ready, do explore seeking help from mental health or counselling resources,” he adds.

Denise Teh is an intern at The Independent SG. /TISG

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