Set up task force to tackle depression and suicides

SINGAPORE - The World Health Organisation has predicted that by 2020, depression will be the second-leading cause of disability worldwide, trailing only ischaemic heart disease.

Experts believe that hopelessness is a strong predictor of suicide.

People who are suicidal may not ask for help, for fear of losing face. They often choose suicide because they want to end their suffering, which can be unbearable for most of them.

People who are suicidal suffer from depression and are in dire need of help.

Contributing factors include financial problems, work and exam stress, the high cost of living, relationship problems and heavy caregiving responsibilities.

But even though depression is the easiest mental illness to treat, more than half of sufferers do not seek treatment because of the social stigma attached to mental illness.

Sometimes, all a suicidal person needs is a shoulder to cry on and a listening ear, and every one of us can play a part in supporting those who have been pushed into a dark corner.

Giving a suicidal person the opportunity to express his feelings can provide relief fromloneliness and pent-up negative feelings, and may prevent a suicide attempt.

Everyone needs to play a part in bringing down our suicide rate, which has shot up by nearly 30 per cent ("Suicide cases rise nearly 30 per cent to hit 20-year high"; July 13).

Religious groups, employers, schools, uniformed groups, MPs and grassroots leaders, along with those in the mental health-care industry, must work in tandem with the Government to help lower our suicide rate.

To this end, it may be timely to set up a task force that will address these pressing issues.

Raymond Anthony Fernando

Get a copy of The Straits Times or go to for more stories.