Suicides in Singapore among the young people : Young men aged 20 to 29 identified as high-risk group here

Suicide among the young people in Singapore

401 suicides last year: SOS

by Leong Wee Keat
05:55 AM Jul 27, 2010

Young men aged 20 to 29 identified as high-risk group here

SINGAPORE - He was just 25 when he lost his job and girlfriend. Unable to cope with these losses, the man ended up facing financial and emotional stress and committed suicide.

That was just one of the suicide cases reported in the Coroner's Court last year. The final tally of suicides last year among young men aged 20 to 29 reached a peak not seen since the data started to be compiled 19 years ago.

Within this age group, which the Samaritans of Singapore (SOS) identified as "high-risk", 51 took their own lives last year, almost double the 26 in 2008.

And like the case of the 25-year-old cited, counsellors and social workers say there is no single factor to account for this spike, but pointed to a multitude of issues.

Younger men (aged 20 to 29) who call the SOS hotline often speak of difficulties and anxieties coping with stress in their lives, executive director Christine Wong said. "Many also spoke of their depression and loneliness," she added as SOS released the figures yesterday.

The figures suggest that males were more likely to commit suicide; the number of male suicides (267) was double that of females (134) here last year.

Overall, suicide rates here climbed slightly after a nine-year low in 2008. The rate increased from 8.76 per 100,000 residents in 2008 to 9.35 last year. There were 401 suicides last year compared to 364 in 2008 and 374 in 2007.

While the economic downturn could have been a reason for some suicides, social worker Gerard Tan felt the link was "not as simple". There were other issues, like relationship problems and mental illness, he said.

Dr Chia Boon Hock, who has spent 40 years collecting and studying suicide data, agreed. Those suffering from mental illnesses typically start displaying symptoms between 20 to 29 years of age, he said.

Another source of concern is the increase in youth suicides - from 12 in 2008 to 19 last year.

For this group, experts felt that high parental expectations and a lack of family attention brought about by dual-income families could act as stress factors. Some youth who call SOS also have identity and crisis-related issues, Ms Wong said.

To tackle suicides among young adults, SOS has focused on suicide prevention.

"They're more likely to confide in their friends, who may be an important source of support," Ms Wong said. To give them this capability, SOS has conducted nine workshops for 2,261 students from seven educational institutions over the past year.

Even with the slight spike in suicide rates, Dr Chia felt there was no cause for alarm here, compared to the numbers in Asian countries such as South Korea (22 per 100,000), Japan (19.1 per 100,000) and Hong Kong (14.45 per 100,000).

He pointed to measures here such as full-time school counsellors and mental health programmes. "(The authorities) are doing everything they can," Dr Chia said.

Social worker Mr Tan - the executive director of Moral Family Service Centre (Bukit Panjang) - believes the community has a role to play, and those who need help should seek out community partners before their problems escalate into suicidal tendencies.

"If it's not done early, our focus is no longer on solving the original problem but more of keeping him safe," he added.

If you need help, call:

Samaritans of Singapore: 1800-221-4444 (24 hours)

Comcare helpline: 1800-222-0000

Care Corner counselling (Mandarin): 1800-353-5800

Singapore Association For Mental Health: 1800-283-7019

Original Source: TODAYOnline Singapore

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