Suicides in Singapore

16 September 2013

Question No. 1374

Name of Person:  Ms Faizah Jamal 

Question

To ask the Minister for Health (a) whether studies have been conducted to look into the rates of suicides especially within the 20-29 age group; (b) what has been done to counsel the affected families; and (c) what more can be done to support young people.

 

Question No. 1386

Name of Person:  Mr Laurence Lien 

Question

To ask the Minister for Health (a) what is the number of attempted suicides in 2012 compared to the number in 2011; (b) what are the main reasons for suicides, attempted and successful, among Singaporeans in 2012; and (c) what new measures are being considered to help Singaporeans cope with emotional distress.

 

Answer

 

1.                 According to police records, the number of attempted suicides increased from 1009 in 2011 to 1090 in 2012, or an increase from 19.5 to 20.5 per 100,000 total population. The number of death arising from suicide rose from 8.1 per 100,000 population in 2011 to 10.3 per 100,000 in 2012.  However, year-to-year fluctuation may not be representative of longer-term trends.  

2.                 Suicidal behaviour has a large number of complex underlying factors, including family, social, economic and mental health issues. A local study based on Singapore’s suicide statistics from 2000-2004 had reported that relationship problems were associated with one-third of all suicides, and financial or employment issues were associated with a further one third. For suicides amongst elderly, gradual physical disability and suffering were important risk factors especially if coupled with the lack of adequate community and family support. However, it is important to note that it is often not just one factor but a combination of several factors interacting with each other which may trigger suicidal behaviour.

3.                 We adopt a multi-pronged strategy to prevent suicide. These include collaborative efforts among different Ministries such as MSF, MOE, MHA, MOH and stakeholders in the social sectors. The broad approaches involve: i) building greater resilience in the population; ii) developing targeted interventions for high-risk individuals, and; iii) increasing public awareness of mental health issues.

4.                 Building resilience takes place at many levels. In schools, students are taught to set realistic and achievable goals for themselves, build positive and healthy relationships with others and to seek help when necessary.

5.                 HPB also has a peer support training programme which trains selected tertiary students on mental health issues including suicide prevention and equips them with peer support skills to reach out to their fellow schoolmates in need. The Community Health Assessment Team (CHAT), launched in 2010 and led by IMH, is another programme that includes efforts to reach out to distressed youths from Post-Secondary Education Institutions (PSEI) such as Polytechnics or ITEs.

6.                 For the elderly, social support is a key element in the prevention of suicides, and this is provided through community services such as active ageing programmes and wellness centres managed by the People’s Association that encourage socialisation and promote an active lifestyle. For elderly persons who live alone, there are befriending programmes and Senior Activity Centres that offer support through centre-based activities and home visits.

7.                 There are a variety of professional services to support persons who are at risk. Family Service Centres (FSCs) provide professional intervention and support to help families and individuals resolve their social and emotional difficulties and to regain stability and independence. FSCs will also help to pull together community resources and services to help them as necessary.

8.                 Hospitals provide crisis interventions for patients who have attempted suicide.  They act to reduce the risk of identified suicide attempters through: i) elimination of acute suicide danger (e.g.: hospitalization, sedation, crisis-intervention), ii) adequate treatment (e.g.: pharmacotherapy, psychotherapy), iii) provision of follow-up care for those with high suicide risk and iv) counselling and support groups for patients both within the hospital and in the community.

9.                 To increase public awareness of mental health issues, the Health Promotion Board (HPB) conducts public education programmes regularly to promote mental wellbeing among children, adults and seniors. These programmes include workshops at the workplace where young employees pick up skills to manage stress and build their resilience. A workplace mental health promotion grant was put in place from 2011 to support employers in carrying out mental health promotion activities.

 

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