Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Set up a task force to tackle depression and suicides : Raymond writes to The Straits Times

My letter on the above suject is published in The Straits Times today, Wednesday 24th July 2013.

The World Health Organisation has predicted that by 2020, depression will be the second-leading cause of disability throughout the world, trailing only ischaemic heart disease.

Experts believe that hopelessness is a strong predictor of suicide. People who are suicidal may not ask for help, for fear of losing face.  They often choose this route because they want to end their suffering, which can be unbearable for most of them.

People who are suicidal suffer from depression and are in dire need of help.  Contributing factors include financial problems, work and exam stress, the high cost of living, relationship problems and heavy caregiving responsibilities.

But even though depression is the easiest of all mental illnesses to treat, more than half of sufferers do not seek treatment because of the social stigma attached to mental illness.

Sometimes all a suicidal person needs is a shoulder to cry on and a listening ear, and every one of us can play a part in supporting those who are pushed into a dark corner. Giving a suicidal person the opportunity to express his feelings can provide relief from loneliness and pent-up negative feelings, and may prevent a suicide attempt.

Everyone needs to play a part in bringing down our suicide rate, which has shot up by 30 percent (“Suicide cases rise nearly 30% to hit 20-year high”; July 13).

Religious groups, employers, schools, uniformed groups, MPs and grassroots leaders, along with those in the mental health-care industry, must work in tandem with the Government to help lower our suicide rate.

To this end, it is timely to set up a task force that will address these pressing issues.

Raymond Anthony Fernando

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