129 elderly suicides in 2017, record high for Singapore: SOS

(File photo: AFP)
(File photo: AFP)

Singapore saw its highest recorded number of elderly suicides in 2017, with 129 individuals aged 60 and above ending their lives.

They accounted for more than a third of the 361 reported suicides in the Republic last year, said suicide prevention centre Samaritans of Singapore (SOS). Ironically, the total number of suicides was also at its lowest since 2012 – this amounted to 9.14 deaths by suicide per 100,000 residents.

In a press statement, an SOS spokesman called the elderly suicides a “worrying trend”, noting that the number of such cases in 2017 had more than doubled from 2011.

“It is very worrying that many elderly are turning to suicide as the only choice to end their pain and struggles, when they should be enjoying their lustre of the golden years,” said SOS executive director Christine Wong, who added that Singapore’s ageing population means there is an “imminent need” for stronger support networks.

The SOS spokesman noted that its 24-hour hotline is favoured by the older demographic group. Of those who disclosed their age, more than a fifth of incoming calls to SOS in 2017 were made by callers aged 60 and above in 2017.

However, calls made by the elderly also dropped by 18 per cent from 2016. Wong noted that the elderly may fall through the cracks as they may be unaware of the resources available to help them.

Some common struggles cited by elderly callers were social disconnection, the fear of becoming a burden to family and friends, and impairments to daily functioning due to physical challenges and deteriorating mental health.

These concerns predispose the socially isolated elderly to depression and suicidal thoughts when struggles go undetected and unaddressed, said the SOS spokesman.

“When the elderly are less aware of the available resources that they can approach, they may feel a strong sense of helplessness which may exacerbate social isolation,” he added.

If you are having suicidal thoughts or know someone who is suicidal, call the SOS 24-hour hotline at 1-800-221-4444.

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