Suicide numbers rose 10% in 2018, still leading cause of death for youths: SOS

The latest statistics brought the number of deaths by suicide to 8.36 per 100,000 Singapore residents, an increase from 7.74 in 2017, said SOS. (PHOTO: Getty Creative)

SINGAPORE – There were 397 reported suicides here in 2018, a 10 per cent rise from the year before, said the Samaritans of Singapore (SOS) in a media release on Monday (29 July).

“All age groups registered an increase in the number of suicides last year, with the exception of those aged 60 years and above,” said the secular, non-profit suicide prevention centre.

The group added that the latest statistics brought the number of deaths by suicide to 8.36 per 100,000 Singapore residents, an increase from 7.74 in 2017.

Suicides among male teens hits new peak

SOS also noted that suicide remains the leading cause of death of youths aged 10 to 29, with 94 youths having ended their own lives last year. “For every 10 youths who died from external causes, about six were a result of suicide,” said the group.

Last year also saw the highest number of suicides among male teenagers – defined as those aged 10 to 19 – since 1991, with 19 deaths reported. This represents a 170 per cent increase from the seven deaths in 2017.

For its last fiscal year ending in March, SOS said it had seen the number of youths writing into its Email Befriending service rise by over 56 per cent.

“Youths today seem to have greater awareness of the moments when they feel alone and helpless. They are more willing to reach out and explore available support avenues like our support services, social media and their peers,” said Wong Lai Chun, SOS’ senior assistant director.

“Even so, it is disconcerting to know that many of our young feel unsupported through their darkest periods and see suicide as the only choice to end their pain and struggles”.

SOS also expressed concern that male teenagers made up only 30 per cent of incoming calls to its hotline and about 27 per cent of Email Befriending clients. The group suggested that “societal stereotypes” – such as the demands on men to be “tough” – could be one of the factors preventing male teenagers from seeking help.

In recent years, SOS has partnered with student-led initiatives to focus on mental health awareness and suicide prevention within schools. The group also trains selected students to identify signs of distress among their peers as well as how to approach affected individuals and refer them for help.

7 in 10 suicides are by men

SOS also noted that in 2018, at least seven out of every 10 suicides were committed by men.

“We live in a society that stresses the importance of masculine qualities as a measure of success. As a result, we grow impatient toward behaviours that seem to depict weakness,” said Wong.

She added that men are typically expected to be “tough, stoic and financially stable” and that any “hint of vulnerability” among them could be perceived as an “imperfection”.

Calling for a change in such attitudes, Wong said, “Men and women alike need to know that it is okay to be less than perfect and we need to educate the public to understand that a supportive and encouraging environment is far more beneficial than a judgemental one for our society.”

If you have thoughts of suicide or are feeling distressed, you can call SOS' 24-hour hotline at 1800 221 4444. You can also email pat@sos.org.sg.

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