Mr Desmond Choo
MP for Tampines GRC
To ask the Minister for Social and Family Development (a) how can the Ministry work with social media companies to help residents who are in distress or have suicidal tendencies; and (b) whether there are plans to develop initiatives with companies such as Facebook on "suicide watch" type of intervention programmes.
1 Singapore adopts a whole-of-society, multi-pronged approach to address the complex nature of suicide. The Government and community partners work together to promote upstream prevention, encourage individuals to seek help, provide support to at-risk groups, and offer crisis support.
2 Many of these efforts need to take place in person to be effective, while some are complemented by online efforts. For example, the Institute of Mental Health (IMH)'s Community Health Assessment Team (CHAT) has a drop-in centre at *SCAPE Youth Park and an online WebCHAT service for young persons in need of mental health support. The National Council of Social Service (NCSS) is running a multi-year public education campaign on mental health issues, called 'Beyond the Label'. Apart from making available information on where to seek help, a Facebook community page has also been set up as a safe space for the online community to share experiences and provide support to those in recovery. A key community partner is the Samaritans of Singapore or SOS, which provides programmes to train professionals and the public on how to identify suicide warning signs, which may be observed on social media, and on how to support the individual.
3 The evidence for 'suicide watch' interventions, which depend on the robustness of the computer algorithms, is currently unclear. There may also be concerns about data privacy and civil liberties, as automated actions may kick in once warning signs are picked up, regardless of whether the distress is real or inaccurately diagnosed. We will continue to review how we enhance our suicide prevention efforts in both physical and online spaces.