Dear A.S.S Editor

The Samaritans of Singapore (SOS), who are noted and lauded for their efforts in saving suicidal lives, themselves now need help. They are facing a shortage of volunteers to man the suicide-centre’s 24 hour hotlines, so more calls are going unanswered now.

And if more calls are going unanswered, this would mean that more suicidal people are not getting the help they required, which puts them more at risk of suicide. However, the SOS had stated that there is a significant dip in the number of calls for help, from 35,832 calls that were taken last year, compared to 39,310 in 2012. it was not made known why the numbers compared are between 2016 and 2012. A total of 429 people took their lives last year, up slightly from 409 in 2015, 415 in 2014, and 422 in 2013.

While the number of trained volunteers has remained stable over the years, the demanding nature of many full-time jobs means volunteers have less time to be in the SOS office to take calls, she said. Of the 173 volunteers on SOS’ database as of last year, only 59.8 per cent could fully commit to the hours required of them, which includes some overnight duty. Most calls come in between midnight and 2 am – which is also when there are fewest volunteers.

SOS receives 100 to 120 calls every day and there is not always someone available to take them. If the trend of dwindling numbers of active volunteers continues, the not-for-profit organisation might have to consider employing more staff, or reassess if it can run the hotline round the clock.

Chris Yeo

A.S.S. Contributor

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