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Whole-of-government approach to deal with suicides in the young

Questions 

Dr Lim Wee Kiak
Sembawang GRC 

To ask the Minister for Social and Family Development: 

(a) what is the Ministry doing to address teen suicides; 
(b) whether the Ministry has done any studies on reducing the suicide rate; and
(c) what is the Ministry doing to strengthen the current multi-Ministry approach on this issue.

Mr Saktiandi Supaat
Bishan-Toa Payoh GRC


To ask the Minister for Social and Family Development:

(a) whether the Ministry will consider launching a suicide prevention campaign to raise awareness on how to look out for tell-tale signs to prevent suicides;
(b) whether there is a need to set up a special hotline for teens which is manned by teenagers trained in counselling; and
(c) whether counsellors are trained to alert the parents/guardians if they counsel a potentially suicidal teen.

Answer

A number of local studies have been done on suicide in the young. The common reasons for teen suicides in Singapore are interpersonal relationship and family issues, as well as social stressors.

As the causes of suicides are often complex and multi-faceted, we take a whole-of-government approach in dealing with suicides in the young. These include efforts from agencies such as the Ministry of Health, the Institute of Mental Health, the Health Promotion Board, the Ministry of Education, and my Ministry.

Psychological resilience is crucial when youths face circumstances that overwhelm them. Within the school environment, HPB runs a series of psycho-emotional programmes to equip students with skills to manage stress and emotions, build positive and supportive relationships with peers, and recognise when and where to seek help. Students may also be referred to school counsellors, community agencies and mental health professionals such as the Child Guidance Clinic in the Institute of Mental Health, where necessary. Parents are alerted when necessary. MOE will further elaborate on its strategy to care for the socio-emotional well-being of students.

Outside of the schools, there is a strong network of community partners that have important roles in preventing teen suicide. Healthcare and social service professionals are trained to identify and intervene appropriately when they come into contact with higher-risk individuals, such as those with a history of suicidal and self-harming behaviours. 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. Counselling such persons requires relevant training, skills, emotional maturity and understanding of life’s challenges. It would not be reasonable to expect teenagers to possess all these pre-requisites to take crisis calls. For better awareness and dedication of resources, there should be just one hotline for such calls.

Several agencies such as MOH, IMH, MOE and my Ministry have come together to further understand the triggers for suicide in the young, and to devise effective strategies, including public education on prevention, towards building better mental resilience among our youth. This will better inform inter-agency efforts to address the stressors and influences that drive young persons towards self-harm.

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Published On Tue, Sep 13, 2016
Last Reviewed On Thu, Dec 8, 2016

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