It is a worrying trend that the number of people grappling with mental health issues is increasing. But what is even more troubling is that every day 15 people attempt to end their lives here in Singapore with at least one of them succeeding in doing so, in The New Paper report “Learn to see warning signs of suicide” September, 9, 2017.
It is heartening to note that Shan You Counselling Centre has introduced a suicide awareness training workshop targeting the community. But more needs to be done.
When depressed people attempt suicide to end their lives, resources get stretched. Besides the Singapore Civil Defence Force and the police having to move in swiftly, the hospital where the suspect gets warded and the courts will also see an increased workload.
Given that stress and mental illness is affecting many of our citizens – young and old, these conditions and suicides can be better managed if all of us play our part and look out for one another. Mental illness education should not be just be confined to the patients and their caregivers, but to the community at large –neighbours, friends, religious groups, students, employers and workers.
To raise awareness of the importance of valuing life, I propose that the Ministry of Health in collaboration with the Institute of Mental Health and the Samaritans of Singapore introduce an annual World Suicide Prevention Day, which can be held in September – a month before World Mental Health Day is celebrated worldwide in October. During the event, people can be encouraged to light a candle to offer support for suicide prevention, to remember anyone who lost their life and for enlightened suicide surviours to can share how they survived their ordeal and are coping well.
Often people contemplating suicide will write about their pent-up frustrations and distress on social media. We can use technology in recognising patterns in people’s comments on social media such as Facebook posts. Through the compassion of people in our community, we can help prevent harm to anyone who is distressed. To this end, I propose that a software be developed to sieve out any troubling post, after which mental providers can be called upon to assist immediately.
All of us can help bring the suicide rates down and change troubled lives by having a conversation with someone who may be struggling with their mental health issues, without passing judgement, but by showing much empathy and compassion
It is futile for Singapore to have resounding economic success and yet her citizens are losing the will to live.
To help bring down the suicide rates, the treating hospitals/doctors, mental health VWOs and SOS who know of people who are suicidal should prepare a summary of such cases and send weekly or monthly reports to the Ministry of Health (MOH) for them to study the patterns. On July 24, 2013, I had proposed through the press that a task force be set to tackle depression and suicides and now one has been put in place (see my blog)
MOH can then submit the findings to this task force. Through these collaborative efforts, I have every confidence that the suicide rates can be significantly reduced.
RAYMOND ANTHONY FERNANDO