Mr Lawrence Wong
Minister for National Development, Second Minister for Finance and Patron of Samaritans of Singapore
Ms Kamala Ponnampalam
Prof Chua Hong Choon
Chief Executive Officer
Institute of Mental Health
Mrs Rose Boon
Counselling and Care Centre
Ms Ruth Chua
Counselling and Care Centre
Friends from Samaritans Hong Kong, Samaritans of Thailand, Befrienders KL and Befrienders Melaka
Ladies and Gentlemen
It is my pleasure to welcome you to Samaritans of Singapore (SOS) 50th Anniversary conference - Unifying Communities; Strengthening Hope. To our foreign delegates, I wish you a warm welcome to Singapore.
SOS 50th Anniversary
This year marks an important milestone for the Samaritans of Singapore as we celebrate our 50th year of service. From day one, SOS has been the only Social Service Agency operating a 24-hour suicide prevention hotline. We set out to be that much-needed listening ear, and we have stayed true to who we are till this very day. The SOS brand is familiar to many, and receiving the Special Merit Award at the Singapore Prestige Brand Award Certificate Ceremony earlier this month, accentuates our promise to be an available lifeline for those in crisis.
We started from a small office at YMCA Centre in Outram Park in 1969. In our first year of operations, we received close to 2,000 calls. Since then, SOS evolved into a specialised professional agency. Today, our trained volunteers handle more than 30,000 calls with our professional team making close to 8,000 follow ups through outcalls, text messages and emails every year.
Unifying Communities; Strengthening Hope
Held in conjunction with World Suicide Prevention Month, the theme of this conference is Suicide Prevention: A Collaborative Effort.
Suicide prevention is not the sole responsibility of a single organisation - nor can it be. It requires a coordinated and sustained effort from the community and other entities, working alongside one another. Only by collaborating and finding ways to effectively utilise our resources and expertise can we succeed in empowering ourselves to better support those in crisis, overcoming the despair that leads too many to contemplate suicide.
This conference, titled Unifying Communities; Strengthening Hope, reflects our goal to provide a platform for people from diverse backgrounds and communities to learn from each other, network and better support those who are thinking of or affected by suicide, strengthening hope for those who may be going through their darkest moments.
The latest report from the World Health Organization (WHO) highlighted how one person dies every 40 seconds from suicide. We are painfully aware that every death is a tragedy for family and friends and suicides are preventable.
Yet, there is no easy answer to resolving the issue of suicide. But that does not mean we cannot do more. We are heartened that so many of you, representing different organisations and serving different segments in our community, are here today. It is testament that we are in it together. Let's address it and build a community where everyone can start talking openly and honestly about suicide without the fear of judgement or exclusion - no one should ever feel like they are alone.
Do I Matter? Book Launch
Recognising this hopelessness often experienced by those who feel alone and tapping on the 50 years of suicide prevention work by SOS, it is also timely that we are launching a book titled Do I Matter? at the conference today. The book addresses a core life skill - the ability to find and nurture hope from inside out, a resource to support our work that never stops.
In closing, I want to acknowledge our generous sponsors Facebook, How's Catering, PigeonHole, Provenance Distributions, Singapore Pools, The Mindful Company, and RadioQuip Communications for supporting our cause and making this conference possible.
A big thank you to the organising committee for the hard work to make this conference a reality.
To all participants, on behalf of SOS, thank you all for your support and I wish yo all a fruitful conference.
Ladies and gentlemen, I would now like to invite Minister Wong to say a few words.