Leong Sze Hian / Columnist
In a written reply in Parliament on 26 August, by the Minister of Education, Dr Ng Eng Hen, to a question by MP Cynthia Phua, the incidence of suicide among youths (rate of youth suicide per 100,000), was 4.9 in 2006 and 6.7 in 2007. This is an increase of 37 per cent. (link)
The number (age between 10 and 24) who committed suicide increased by 36 per cent from 36 in 2006 to 49 in 2007.
According to media reports, 374 people killed themselves last year, but for every death, there were seven failed bids ; 706 were arrested for attempted suicide, about half of the estimated 10,400 walk-in patient cases at the Institute of Mental Health (IMH) have thought about dying, about 4,380 who called the Samaritans of Singapore (SOS) were high-risk suicide cases, and 87 suicides were aged 65 and above - an increase of 26 per cent over the previous year (“Special report : suicide attempts - when all hopes is lost”, ST, Aug 10).
The incidence of elderly suicide is double that of the general population, having crept above 20 per 100,000 people over 65 years old from a low of 17.3 in 2002 (“Depressed and alone : The old need help”, ST, Aug 11).
Looking at the above statistics, does it mean that about 280 per 100,000 residents (10,000 divided by 3.6 million resident population) contemplate suicide in a year ?
How many are youths and what are the causes?
I think one of the reasons why suicides are un-reported, is because family members may be reluctant to do so as the suicide attemptors may be arrested, and may also be charged in court and sent to jail, as suicide is a crime under Section 309 the Penal Code.
Are there any other countries in the world that make suicide a crime ?
I would like to suggest that Section 309 be reviewed, as it may be the cause of under-reporting of the suicidal statistics - which may lead to under-treatment and help for these Singaporeans.
According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), the suicide rate per 100,000 was 6.8 for the United Kingdom, and 7.9 for Thailand. Singapore's rate was 10.3.
To what extent, has our education system, employment and financial problems, contributed to the above suicide statistics ? For youths, perhaps the Ministry of Education could provide statistics on successful suicides and attempted suicides.