New mum’s suicide casts light on struggles of working mums: Coroner

New mum’s suicide casts light on struggles of working mums: Coroner

Police cordon
File photo of a police cordon. (Photo: AFP)

SINGAPORE: A new mother, struggling to juggle work and caring for her two-month-old daughter, had Googled “what to do when there is no way out” five days before she fell to her death, clutching her baby girl.

Mother and daughter were pronounced dead at the foot of a block of flats in Bukit Panjang on Nov 23, 2016. Koh Suan Ping, 29, and daughter Jaelyn Ng, two months, died of multiple injuries consistent with a fall from height, State Coroner Marvin Bay said.

On Tuesday (May 9), he ruled Madam Koh’s death a suicide, and that the baby had been “unlawfully killed” by her mother.

Mdm Koh had jumped from her flat on the 12th storey with Jaelyn in her arms, “clearly intending for them to die together”, the coroner said. They were pronounced dead four minutes apart, Jaelyn at 6.54am and Mdm Koh at 6.58am.

Officers on the ground floor noticed the windows of a 12th-storey unit were wide open, and went to investigate. They met Mdm Koh’s husband, who, until the officers appeared at his front door, was not aware that his wife and child were no longer in the flat.

Mdm Koh had shown no signs of depression during her pregnancy, but seemed to increasingly struggle with the demands of being a new and working mother, according to accounts from her husband and two colleagues.

All of them said Mdm Koh was upset she could not produce enough breast milk to feed her daughter, stressed at having to find a replacement domestic helper, and concerned that her company, where she was a sales manager, was not doing well.

Mdm Koh had been eager to get back to work, taking only two months’ maternity leave, against her husband’s wishes, a coroner’s inquiry heard.

One week before she jumped to her death, Mdm Koh’s colleague noticed she was “not her usual self”. She was “quite emotional” and “very stressed”, and spoke about the difficulties she faced trying to breastfeed her baby.

State Coroner Marvin Bay said the “truly tragic” case was an opportunity to address “the reality of post-partum depression” and the toll it takes on working mothers who juggle demands and duties in caring for their child and pursuing their career.

Mr Bay urged more support for working mums. “It would be ideal for the workplace to acknowledge the needs of working mothers with new babies, and take steps to ameliorate the additional stress imposed on them by providing better work-life balance, flexible working conditions and affordable, quality childcare,” he said. 

Source: CNA/vc