Family relationship issues among most common problems faced by suicidal youths

PHOTO: Family relationship issues among most common problems faced by suicidal youths

SINGAPORE - A total of 422 people died by suicide in Singapore in 2013 - a 10 per cent decrease from 467 suicides registered in 2012.

According to the latest figures from the Samaritans of Singapore (SOS), the national suicide rate went down from 10.27 per 100,000 resident population in 2012 to 9.29 in 2013. In the last ten years, the total number of suicides averaged at 395 while the suicide rate averaged at 9.28.

Suicide among youths aged below 30 accounted for nearly a quarter of all suicides in 2013. Youth suicide averaged at 20 per cent in the past ten years. Between April 2013 and March 2014, 45 per cent of the 168 people who came for crisis counselling at SOS were aged 30 and below.

SOS found that issues pertaining to family relationships were among the top three problems presented by this group, along with depression and boy-girl relationship issues.

SOS said it provided emotional support to a total of 993 people though its email befriending service. Of the 420 people who revealed their age, eight in 10 were aged 30 and below. Over half of the suicidal youths who emailed SOS were distressed by family relationships.

These figures were reflected by the SOS hotline where family relationship issues were presented by the suicidal youths as the most common problem leading to intense distress and suicidal thoughts.

Executive Director of SOS Christine Wong said: "Our interaction with these suicidal youths has highlighted a general disconnect between them and their families. There appears to be a lack of effective communication and understanding between family members."

SOS added that there may be various factors contributing to this gap. These include youths having to manage new demands and expectations, parents being unable to fully understand the struggles of today's youths and the challenge of finding time to nuture family relationships.

Ms Wong also noted that youths are generally more comfortable communicating virtually rather than conversing face-to-face. They also often use lingo which their parents may not be familiar with.

All these factors may affect the quality of the relationships within the family, and can in turn create other issues, she said.

SOS noted that when these youths face difficulties coping with life's challenges, it is often hard for them to seek support from their families. This is as many youths are afraid to talk about their troubles with their family members due to fear of possible reactions.

Family support can be very important especially in one's growing-up years. The lack of it can increase the sense of isolation and helplessness when the youths are experiencing some problems, SOS said.

Ms Wong commented: "Youth suicides come at a great cost to families and society as youths are in the most productive years of their lives. Greater efforts need to be directed towards identifying youths who are going through a crisis.”

SOS said it has been actively creating awareness among the youths and members of the public of the warning signs of suicide.

"It is important for them to know that it is OK to seek support and help when in need," the non-profit suicide prevention centre said.

Warning signs of suicide

Emotional or behavioural changes • Dramatic changes in mood • Intense feelings of hopelessness or helplessness • Intense rage or anger • Feeling psychologically and emotionally trapped – like there is no way out • Unusual behavioural changes • Acting recklessly or engaging in risky activities • Increasing or abusive consumption of alcohol or drugs • Withdrawing from family, friends or society • Unusual sleeping patterns

Verbal warnings signs or threats

• Expressions such as "Life is too painful for me." • Bidding farewell – e.g. "Take care when I'm gone." • Threats such as "If you don't love me, I will kill myself."

Pre-suicide planning

• Tidying up one's affairs • Giving away treasured things and saying goodbye • Writing suicide notes, emails or blogs • Checking out methods of dying

Samaritans of Singapore (SOS):1800-2214444
Singapore Association for Mental Health:1800-2837019
Sage Counselling Centre:1800-5555555
Care Corner Mandarin Counselling:1800-3535800