SINGAPORE: Between 2010 and 2014, there was an average of about 400 suicides and 1,000 cases of attempted suicide each year.
These statistics were revealed by Minister for Social and Family Development Tan Chuan-Jin in response to a series of written questions tabled by Non-Constituency Member of Parliament Gerald Giam from the Workers' Party in Parliament.
Breaking down the statistics further, the minister revealed that there were “about twice as many males as females” and that the median age of persons committing suicide was 50.9 in 2014.
Mr Tan also revealed that Chinese and Indians had higher suicide rates compared to Malays. A breakdown by income was not available, he said.
Mr Tan added that while the causes of suicide are “complex and multi-faceted” – they could be due to a combination of factors related to relationship as well as family, social, economic, mental and physical health issues. These were also common reasons for suicides which had been identified in a locally-published study in 2010.
PREVENTION AND SUPPORT PROGRAMMES
Asked what the Government had done to address the issue of suicide in Singapore, Mr Tan said that Government agencies such as Ministry of Social and Family Development (MSF), the Ministry of Health (MOH) and the Health Promotion Board (HPB) “have funded and put in place efforts in public education, prevention and support”.
These Government agencies “have worked closely with voluntary welfare organisations (VWOs) on several of these efforts,” he said.
“In our schools for example, students are taught to set realistic goals for themselves, build healthy relationships with others and seek help where necessary. The Health Promotion Board has a peer support programme which trains selected tertiary students on mental health issues such as suicide prevention and peer support skills to reach out to their schoolmates.
“For the elderly, there are active ageing programmes to promote an active lifestyle and encourage socialisation. Senior Activity Centres provide befriending programmes, centre-based activities and home visits for needy elderly who live alone.”
“Family Service Centres provide support to help individuals and families resolve their relationship, financial and emotional difficulties.
“Healthcare and social service professionals play important roles in identifying and providing support to higher-risk individuals, especially those with a history of suicidal and self-harming behaviours. For persons who have attempted suicide, the first step is to eliminate acute suicide danger through hospitalisation and crisis-intervention, and follow-up care such as counselling and support groups,” said the minister.
PUBLIC CAN PLAY A ROLE
Mr Tan noted that the “wider public can also play a role in preventing suicides”.
The Samaritans of Singapore, which receives Community Chest funding, undertakes regular public education efforts to raise public understanding on suicides and the available avenues for help. It also runs a 24-hour crisis intervention and suicide prevention hotline.
“We can all play our part to raise awareness of suicides, reach out to those among us who may be at risk and refer those who need support to the services available,” added Mr Tan.
The 24-hour Samaritan of Singapore hotline is 1800-221 4444.
According to the Samaritans of Singapore, a total of 415 people died by suicide in Singapore in 2014, of whom 70 per cent were males. In the past decade, it added, the number of men committing suicide rose by nearly 30 per cent, while the number of women fell by 20 per cent.