Mr Gerald Giam
Non-Constituency Member of Parliament
To ask the Minister for Social and Family Development
(a) what is the breakdown of suicides and attempted suicides in Singapore according to age, ethnicity, sex, and monthly income for the past five years;
(b) whether the Government has conducted studies on suicide in Singapore and, if so, whether such studies can be made publicly available; and
(c) whether the Government has introduced any measures or programmes to address suicide in Singapore.
Between 2010 and 2014, there were an average of about 400 cases of suicides and 1,000 cases of attempted suicides each year. There were about twice as many males as females. The median age of persons committing suicide was 50.9 years in 2014. Chinese and Indians have higher suicide rates compared to Malays. Breakdown in terms of income is not available.
The causes of suicide are complex and multi-faceted. They could be due to a combination of factors related to relationship and family, social, economic and mental and physical health issues. These were also the common reasons of suicides identified in a locally published study1
Government agencies including MSF, MOH and HPB have funded and put in place efforts in public education, prevention and support. They have worked closely with voluntary welfare organisations (VWOs) on several of these efforts. In our schools for example, students are taught to set realistic goals for themselves, build healthy relationships with others and seek help where necessary. The Health Promotion Board has a peer support programme which trains selected tertiary students on mental health issues such as suicide prevention and peer support skills to reach out to their schoolmates. For the elderly, there are active ageing programmes to promote an active lifestyle and encourage socialisation. Senior Activity Centres provide befriending programmes, centre-based activities and home visits for needy elderly who live alone. Family Service Centres provide support to help individuals and families resolve their relationship, financial and emotional difficulties.
Healthcare and social service professionals play important roles in identifying and providing support to higher-risk individuals, especially those with a history of suicidal and self-harming behaviours. For persons who have attempted suicide, the first step is to eliminate acute suicide danger through hospitalisation and crisis-intervention, and follow-up care such as counselling and support groups.
The wider public can play a role in preventing suicides. The Samaritans of Singapore, which receives Community Chest funding, undertakes regular public education efforts to raise public understanding on suicides and the available avenues for help. It also runs a 24-hour crisis intervention and suicide prevention hotline. We can all play our part to raise awareness of suicides, reach out to those among us who may be at risk and refer those who need support to the services available.
1 Chia Boon Hock & Audrey Chia, ‘Suicide in Singapore’, 2010.