Sunday, June 17, 2018

Perspectives: Staying ‘alive’ to the realities of suicidal depression and other mental disorders : A proposal to Gan Kim Yong ,Minister of Health

Within just a week, two high profile celebrities have lost their lives in a most cruel way.

First, it was fashion designer Kate spade who hung herself and left a suicide note to her teenage daughter. Then it was Anthony Bourdain, Celebrity Chef and CNN food critic who was found dead in a hotel room in France.

Kate Spade, 55 died in an apparent suicide on Tuesday June 5, 2018 while Anthony Bourdain 61, died also from suicide on Friday, June8, 2018. 

Both celebrities had hanged themselves.

I, like many others – worldwide are deepened saddened by these tragic incidents and thus it’s important to keep their loved ones in prayer during this difficult period.

But make no mistake about it – depression and suicide are silent killers.  So too are other mental disorders such as bipolar and schizophrenia. Even though these issues are sensitive and delicate, we need to come alive on these matters by discussing it openly and rationally.


Some of the risks factors of suicide include:

♦ Loss of interest or pleasure

♦ Insomnia

♦ Decreased appetite

♦ Retardation, fatigue or agitation

♦ Feelings of worthlessness, guilt

♦ Impaired concentration, indecisiveness

♦ Financial distress

♦ Isolation

♦ Personal issues, such as marital problems


Relationship can be tricky and not everyone can manage break-ups as it is by no means easy to cope with.  For like grief, the emotional pain from failed relationships can be overwhelming.


The other important matter to note is that children and loved ones are in real danger of going through psychological issues as it can be traumatic for them to cope with loss.


In yet another horrific incident, the media had reported that a Frenchman had committed suicide at Mecca’s Grand Mosque on Saturday, June 9. There were no details released on the identity of the man, or why he threw himself off mosque roof in Islam's holiest city.

Was it suicide as reported by the press? Or was it a mental illness such as Bipolar that caused the death.

Patients with bipolar can believe that they can fly or do the impossible. It is part of the symptoms of the illness.

A case in point is how Blake LeVine, now aged 35 who as a child believed that he could fly. As a teenager, Blake would spend hours in the library frantically reading all that he could about how humans could take flight. His parents grew so concerned that he would attempt it by jumping off of one of New York City’s skyscrapers that they had him institutionalised. After being hospitalised several times, Blake was diagnosed as having bipolar disorder.

In another media report, this time by Channel NewsAsia,on June 14, “SCDF rescues woman walking on roof of overhead bridge in Yishun”, Singapore Civil Defence Force (SCDF) officers  had managed to rescue a woman walking on the roof of an overhead bridge.

The woman was brought to Khoo Teck Puat Hospital and was arrested for attempted suicide.

Was this suicidal depression or was it a mental illness gone untreated?

We need to have a clear understanding of all types of mental disorders.


Family, friends, employers, religious groups and the media all have a part to play in helping depressed people overcome their struggles which can prevent suicide.  We can do this by showing empathy and concern to depressed people coupled with a listening ear; and by being in tune with the warning signs of depression.  We must never dismiss a cry for help as a sign of weakness or view the sufferer as being bothersome.


Certainly, suicide survivours can reinforce the message that taking one’s own life is not the solution as treatment is readily available and recovery is always possible.  These valuable sharing experiences can be carried out at schools, workplaces, religious places, community clubs and during talk shows on radio and television networks where these issues can be discussed candidly.


Listeners can call in with their questions and shared experiences. It will be good to also invite enlightened employers and marriage counsellors who can give guidance and directions on how to better manage challenges in life’s journey.

In addition, counselling, group therapy and supportive psychotherapy can give encouragement and support to anyone who finds life meaningless.

I should additionally add that there are stress management solutions that are available to provide anonymous education and support which we need to educate more people about.

Let us not wait till the situation gets out of hand and more tragedies take place –for one life lost is one life gone too many.

Raymond Anthony Fernando

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