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August 2020


There were a total of 400 reported suicides in Singapore in 2019, up from 397 in the year before. Most age groups registered a slight increase in the number of suicide deaths last year. Deaths as a result of suicide dropped to 8.00 per 100,000 Singapore residents from 8.36 in 2018.

Suicide remains the leading cause of death for youths aged 10 to 29. Notably, the number of suicide deaths amongst those aged 20 to 29 years remains highest compared to all other age groups. In 2019, 71 youths aged between 20 and 29 years took their own lives. Suicide accounts for about one-third of all reported deaths in this age group.

Of those who revealed their age, youths between 20 to 29 years old accounted for approximately 17% of total calls attended to on the 24-hour Hotline, and making up for about 37% of Email Befriending clients. In particular, the number of calls from this age group rose to 4,124, up from 3,396 calls in the previous fiscal year ending March 2019. Through interactions with clients, SOS observed that these individuals often cite issues with romantic relationships, difficulties coping with one’s mental health and struggles managing challenging situations as contributing factors that led to their acute distress.

Mr Gasper Tan, Chief Executive of Samaritans of Singapore (SOS), added, “While the rise in calls is an encouraging sign that youths are recognising the importance of their mental health and need for early intervention, the high number of suicide deaths in this age group is concerning. Much more remains to be done as a community to further understand and address the issues that may prevent our youths from seeking help”.

Highlighting the integral role of advocacy in recent years, he said, “As the lead agency in suicide prevention, SOS will continue to harness these efforts, drawing on the strength, support and network of the community in our programs and outreach”.

In a survey recently conducted by SOS to understand the community’s perception towards suicide, one in three in the 20 to 29 age group, responded that they will not consider contacting others for help when they are emotionally overwhelmed. Stigmatising beliefs around suicide emerged as a common barrier to seeking help for this group.The fear of embarrassment, being judged, along with the sense of hopelessness that nothing will help, were prominent reasons that surfaced in the survey findings. A total of 2,497 respondents participated in the survey, of which 580 were aged 20 to 29.

Pilot SOS Care Text Service From July

Recognising the hesitation of calling the hotline for some individuals in distress or contemplating suicide and their preference for another option through text messaging, the introduction of SOS’ newest text-based service – SOS Care Text has been brought forward. Referring to the increase in the number of calls into the 24-hour Hotline and emails during the Circuit Breaker period, Mr Tan elaborated, “During these trying times, it is crucial that SOS is able to readily provide an alternative form of emotional support while catering to the changing communication preferences of the community.” Respondents to the SOS survey had also indicated text-based services as the most preferred platform to seek help, reflecting the timely introduction of this offering.

“There may be many within our community who are facing their personal challenges silently, unbeknownst to us all. In this time when we are physically distanced from one another to stay safe, feelings of loneliness and helplessness may be amplified. It is important for us to show our care and concern for our loved ones by checking in on them periodically. While the journey forward may be tough, this action helps to show that we are willing to walk with them to make this journey a little less intimidating” commented Mr Tan.

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