The national suicide rate increased from 8.13 per 100,000 resident population in 2011 to 10.27 in 2012. The number of suicide deaths reached an all-time high of 467, an increase of 29% from 361 suicide deaths in 2011.
The most significant increase comes from the age group 20-29 which is about 80%. The number of suicide deaths rose from 46 in 2011 to 83 in 2012.
From January to December 2012, the Samaritans of Singapore (SOS) received 27 referrals of suicide deaths of people aged 20 to 29 through its Local Outreach to Suicide Survivor (LOSS) programme which provides support to bereaved family members. 95 people in their twenties were also referred to SOS for attempting suicide, an increase of 38% from 69 in 2011. Of the people who called the hotline and gave their age, 34% were aged 20-29; 36% of email writers are in this age range. 66% of email writers in this age group have expressed suicidal thoughts at some point.
Common problems presented by this group of people involved stressful life events and interpersonal relationship issues. These include unemployment, stress with studies or work, financial worries, family life, and struggles with social interactions and feelings of loneliness. Suicide is rarely due to a single event but often results from a series of interrelated social, biological, environmental, and psychological factors.
“People in their twenties are exploring their identity, discovering new responsibilities, and building their career and their family, all of which can be very stressful,” commented Ms Christine Wong, Executive Director of SOS. As to what can be done to prevent more youth suicides, Ms Wong highlighted the important role of the community in de-stigmatising suicide by letting their loved ones know that it is okay to talk about their distress or suicidal feelings and by encouraging help-seeking behaviour.
“It is often difficult for people to talk about their struggles and to express the pain they are feeling inside. People around them may not be aware of their distress and are hence unable to provide the support needed.” Ms Wong further noted that this can be particularly more so with young people who tend to hide their pain behind a façade, not knowing where, how or who they can get approach for help.
SOS is organising a community awareness project Unhiding the Hidden: How I’m Coping Inside to raise awareness of the struggles of the youths and to encourage them to share how they are coping. Youths aged between 10 and 30 are invited to send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org. Selected letters sent to this email address may be published at an exhibition at Vivocity from 10 to 16 September in conjunction with the World Suicide Prevention Day. More information about the project can be found at www.sos.org.sg. For people who need confidential emotional support, they can call the SOS hotline at 1800-221-4444 or write to email@example.com. Whatever is shared through the SOS hotline and email befriending service will be kept confidential and will not be used for this community project.