After suicide of serviceman, SCDF enhances support for recruits struggling to adjust

After suicide of serviceman, SCDF enhances support for recruits struggling to adjust

Muhammad Ahad Lone
The 18-year-old national serviceman was found dead at the foot of a block in April 2018. (Photo: Courtesy of Muhammad Ahad Lone’s family) 

SINGAPORE: The Singapore Civil Defence Force (SCDF) has recently enhanced its support programme for National Service recruits who struggle to adjust, following the death by suicide of a full-time national serviceman (NSF) last year.

Changes to interview sessions and additional help for those who do not have family in Singapore are some of the ways the authority is trying to help these recruits, said SCDF on Thursday (Nov 28).

READ: SCDF reviewed processes after NSF's suicide; coroner recommends appointing mental health experts

The authority reviewed its processes after the death of 18-year-old SCDF full-time national serviceman Muhammad Ahad Lone last year.

Mr Ahad, who had returned to Singapore from Pakistan to complete National Service, was found dead at the foot of an apartment block on Apr 7.

A coroner found he had committed suicide and recommended that SCDF review its structure and protocols.

Under new changes, the interview process for recruits who need additional help has been adjusted. 

On enlistment day, all National Service recruits complete a questionnaire so that any personal issues which could affect their adjustment to National Service can be identified.

Those judged to need more support are then referred for follow-up care and counselling.

These recruits were previously interviewed by their assigned NSF platoon commander, but now a deputy platoon commander will also be present during the interview, said SCDF.

This person will be an "older, regular officer who can assume the nurturing role of a father figure", said the authority.

"Such interviews are now conducted in civilian attire, so that the setting is less regimented and recruits may feel more comfortable to open up about problems they may be facing," it added.

Additional help will also be given to recruits with no family in Singapore.

"As far as possible, they will be assigned a buddy from the same ethnic group or one who speaks the same language," said SCDF. 

Those who are facing financial difficulties will also be offered accommodation within the camp over weekends or public holidays.

SCDF "DEEPLY SADDENED" BY DEATH OF RECRUIT

SCDF said it was "deeply saddened" by Mr Ahad's death and extended its "deepest condolences" to his family.

The force also gave a detailed overview of the months leading up to the NSF's death.

In the two-month period after Mr Ahad enlisted, he had reported sick 15 times and been given medical leave or light duties, said SCDF.

On Mar 29 last year, he told the medical officer at the Civil Defence Academy he was experiencing a low mood and had suicidal thoughts. 

He was referred to the Institute of Mental Health that same day.

A few days later, he was put on light duties for three months and told his case would be put up for consideration for a Physical Employment Status downgrade.

On the same day, he had a counselling session with the Orientation Officer.

On Apr 6, Mr Ahad was given one night's confinement as he was late reporting back to SCDF's National Service Training Institute (the second time this had happened), said SCDF.

"However, even though he had accrued a potential charge of Absence Without Official Leave, he was given a warning in lieu of punishment," said the authority. 

"He served the confinement under the supervision of the camp duty officer, who did not observe anything amiss about his behaviour."

The authority said it would study the State Coroner's recommendations carefully.

Where to get help: Samaritans of Singapore operates a 24-hour hotline at 1800 221 4444, or you can email pat@sos.org.sg. You can also find a list of international helplines here. If someone you know is at immediate risk, call 24-hour emergency medical services.

Source: CNA/nc

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