Instigating a conversation about suicide can be difficult. That is perhaps why World Suicide Prevention Day, which fell on Sunday (Sep 10), is so important. By shining a spotlight on the issue, it encourages all of us to have open discussions on an otherwise taboo subject.
As a long-time advocate for mental wellness, Senior Parliamentary Secretary (SPS) for Social and Family Development Eric Chua shares a similar sentiment about suicide prevention. “It can be awkward and tough broaching the topic, but change does not happen overnight, and that is exactly why we need to start somewhere,” he implored.
Similarly, Deputy Prime Minister (DPM) Lawrence Wong, in his opening remarks at the Spark the Change Festival, shared that despite greater mental health awareness, many still struggle in private and take the tragic step of ending their lives.
“We can and must all do our part to look out for warning signs and refer them to the appropriate help,” urged DPM Wong.
Reducing stigma and improving mental health accessibility
Earlier this year, Samaritans of Singapore (SOS) released some sobering statistics. There were 476 suicides in 2022, 25% more than the previous year and the highest recorded number since 2000. Of particular concern is the rise of suicide deaths among youths and the elderly, which paints a bleak picture of our most vulnerable suffering in silence.
The alarming figures have since spurred our MPs to push for change. During Parliament last month, MP Mr Vikram Nair (Sembawang GRC) asked if there are steps to address the rise in suicide cases and make mental health assistance more readily accessible to the public.
There was also MP Mr Yip Hon Weng (Yio Chu Kang SMC), who proposed having suicide hotlines manned by dialect speakers to benefit seniors and MP Dr Wan Rizal (Jalan Besar GRC), who called for an increase in mental health literacy in schools to support our youths.
In response, Senior Minister of State (SMS) for Health Dr Janil Puthucheary shared that the government will continue to work with multiple stakeholders on initiatives to build mental resilience, encourage help-seeking and support individuals in crisis to address the issue of potential suicide.
One example is Beyond the Label, a nationwide movement that began in 2018 to address mental health stigma and promote social inclusion for those with mental health conditions. The goal, ultimately, is for us to be able to speak about mental health and suicide honestly and without judgment. That is because doing so could make it easier for someone to express distress, leading them to seek help and potentially reducing the chances that they might harm themselves.
Elsewhere in our communities, Well-Being Circles (WBC) are increasingly common and part of a broader effort to provide Singaporeans with the skills to care for their mental well-being and a safe space to share their difficulties. In addition, a growing number of active ageing centres and Silver Generation Ambassadors act as a support network, engaging seniors who live alone and are at risk of social isolation.
Finally, as SMS Janil noted, society also plays a critical role in destigmatising mental illnesses and making individuals feel safe to seek help. It is a stark reminder that mental health is a care we must share. By showing empathy and supporting those around us experiencing distress, we can collectively build a caring and more inclusive society, not just for ourselves but for our children.
Where to get help:
- Samaritans of Singapore: 1800-221-4444
- Singapore Association for Mental Health: 1800-283-7019
- Care Corner Counselling Centre (Mandarin): 1800-353-5800
- Institute of Mental Health’s Mental Health Helpline: 6389-2222
- Silver Ribbon: 6386-1928
Photo Source: NCSS/Eric Chua via Facebook/Northwest CDC/Maximilian Csali via Unsplash