"Sometimes you put walls up not to keep people out, but to see who cares enough to break them down "
- Socrates -
I refer to the article, “Woman and toddler found dead (Sept 14) in MediaCorp's TODAY newspaper.
According to the World Health Organisation, it is estimated that approximately one million people will die from suicide each year. By the year 2020, depression is projected to reach second place in the ranking of global burden of disease.
While some people will criticize those who commit suicide, we must understand that these people do so because they feel isolated, hopeless and find that the only option to end their suffering is through death. Suicidal people must be given the opportunity to talking openly about their suicidal thoughts because lives can be saved. Studies have shown that hopelessness is a strong predictor of suicide.
It is never easy to understand what pushes so many individuals to take their own lives. But if we show that we care and have a good supporting system, it can prevent or at least reduce people from taking their own lives or that of their loved ones.
Last year, 992 people here were arrested for attempting suicide-the highest figure in the last five years. Besides locals, foreigners are also losing the will to live.
To bring down our suicide rates, I suggest the following measures be taken.
Form a task force
Form a high level task force to address and tackle the rising number of people committing suicide or attempting to end their lives. Members could include the police, HDB staff, counsellers, Members of Parliament, psychologists, psychiatrists and even ordinary citizens who have overcome suicide and now leading perfectly normal lives.
Sharing a life experience
Tap the experience of those who have overcome suicides and allow them to share their experience with those who may be suicidal.
Form associations for support
Have associations for foreigners to participate in activities so that they feel welcome and do not feel lonely and isolated. These associations should also have a counsellor whom troubled people can approach for assistance. Make known that there is a crisis hotline to these foreigners – that there is always help out there.
Reach out to the community
While helplines do help, it is far better if we have professionals come down on-site as face-to-face interaction can make a big difference in saving lives. With the on-site system in place, a proper care plan can be put in place to ensure that the suicidal person does not have more depressing thoughts. And once the suicidal crisis has passed, it is crucial to stay in touch with the person, periodically checking in or dropping by. To this end, it would be useful if Befrienders or volunteers who are trained in crisis management or have some knowledge of psychology keep in close contact with the suicidal person/s.
At the end of the day, friends can provide the vital support in the recovery process and we should do all we can to help save and reclaim lives.
Raymond Anthony Fernando