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Additional Measures to Address Rise in Youth Suicides

Assoc Prof Daniel Goh Pei Siong
Non-Constituency Member of Parliament

Question

To ask the Minister for Social and Family Development in view of the rise in youth suicides, whether the Ministry will consider shifting the current strategy or introducing additional measures to address this trend.

Answer

1 The number of suicides involving 10- to 19-year-olds fluctuates year-on-year, ranging from 12 to 27 cases in the past five years. While there is no discernible trend, MOE, MOH and MSF are very concerned about youth suicides and we are monitoring this closely. 

2 The underlying causes of suicide are complex, so a multi-pronged approach has been taken to prevent suicide. This includes:
(a) building resilience and supporting mental well-being among young people; 
(b) raising awareness on mental health issues;
(c) reducing stigma and encouraging youths to seek help if they are experiencing mental health difficulties;
(d) identifying and supporting those at risk of suicide; and 
(e) intervening in crisis situations where urgent help is needed. 

3 MSF works closely with agencies such as MOE, MOH, MHA, the Institute of Mental Health, the Health Promotion Board, the National Council of Social Service, and with community partners such as the Samaritans of Singapore on these inter-agency efforts. For example, the Health Promotion Board partners schools on psycho-emotional programmes to equip students with skills to manage stress and emotions, and build supportive relationships with peers. Students may also be referred to school counsellors and mental health professionals such as the Child Guidance Clinic, where necessary. Beyond schools, the Samaritans of Singapore or SOS conducts programmes to teach teenagers how to identify suicide warning signs and where to seek help. SOS also runs a 24-hour crisis hotline, manned by trained adult volunteers, to counsel persons in distress.  

4 In addition, an Inter-Agency Research Workgroup for Youth Suicides has been set up as part of the recommendations by the NurtureSG Taskforce. The Workgroup, led by IMH, has been studying the issues surrounding youth suicides, and facilitates deeper collaboration between the various agencies. The Workgroup seeks to deepen its understanding of risk factors as well as protective factors surrounding suicides, and consider ways to better raise awareness and support for our youths. 

5 More recently in May this year, Parliament passed the Criminal Law Reform Bill to amend the Penal Code to decriminalise attempted suicide, because the threat of prosecution and the labelling of persons who attempt suicide as “offenders” may worsen their emotional state and the stigma they face. At the same time, the abetment of attempted suicide remains an offence, and the Police will continue to be able to intervene in suicide situations.  

6 Every life is precious, and each suicide is one too many. We will continue to work together to strengthen our national response for suicide prevention.
 
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